The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Thursday announced that India would launch an exclusive manned mission to space by 2022, joining a league consisting of China, Russia, and the United States. The announcement came at a press conference held by ISRO chief Kailasavadivoo Sivan along with other government officials in New Delhi.
The manned mission to space has been named Gaganyaan—which is Sanskrit for “space vehicle”—and will be launched to mark the 75th independence anniversary of the country, according to a statement made by Jitendra Singh, an Indian federal government official.
Indian officials also briefed the media about two other major space programs planned by the ISRO: an unmanned mission to the moon, named Chandrayaan II, expected to touch down on the surface by September 6 this year, and a plan to build a small space station governed exclusively by India. The only operating space station presently is the International Space Station, jointly run by the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, and the European Space Agency.
successful, India would be only the fourth country to land on the moon, and the third to have a space station in orbit—although, by the time India launches its space station, the Chinese are likely to have their own in orbit as well.
Here’s What We Know Far About the Indian Manned Mission to Space
Indian State Minister for Space Jitendra Singh told the media that New Delhi has approved $1.5 billion for a manned mission to space. The Indian government has also created a Gaganyaan National Advisory Council to oversee the planning and development of the endeavor. The council includes members from the government, academia, and industry.
TechCrunch quotes Singh as saying that the mission will have 2-3 crew members who will go up in space for about a week. The spacecraft on which the crew travel will be placed in a low-earth orbit at a height of 186-248 miles above the earth. Negotiations with the Indian military for the selection of pilots to fly the mission to space have already begun.
The members of the Gananyaan team who will go to space could be selected within the next six months, after which they will undergo training for more than a year, according to the minister. Some of the training will be done in India, while more advanced training would be conducted outside India with the help of other space agencies. Indian officials, however, have repeatedly avoided specifying which foreign countries they would partner with.
Discussing the timeline of the manned mission, the government officials present at the press conference told the media that a three-stage launch vehicle developed by ISRO will be used to fly the crew to space. Two test missions will be conducted before the actual launch in 2022.
After the Moon, ISRO Has Its Eyes on the Sun and Venus
In addition to Gaganyaan, ISRO revealed further details about the Chandrayaan II mission to the lunar surface. According to the officials from the space agency, the second Indian mission to the moon will be launched on July 15 and will touch down on the surface by September 6.
The mission consists of a launch vehicle which will orbit the body, plus a lander and a rover. The lander for the moon landing has been designed and developed in India, which presents a technological landmark for the South Asian nation.
Previously, the Russian space agency had been tasked to deliver the lander, but after they withdrew from the task, India decided to build the lander in-house, reports The Indian Express. The lander is equipped with scientific instruments to study the surface and atmosphere of the moon and will be operational for two weeks after touchdown.
Although India has sent a mission to the moon back in 2008, it was only an orbiter mission. If the country succeeds with Chandrayaan II, it will become only the fourth nation in the world after Russian, United States and China to land on the moon.
ISRO officials on Thursday further revealed that the space ambitions of the country go beyond the moon and manned and that the country was also planning to put a small station in space after the Gaganyaan initiative. Two other interplanetary missions, to study the outer layers of the sun and the workings of the planet Venus, will also be conducted within the next decade. The United States and the European Union have studied the outer layers of the sun, and plan to send two new probes in this regard by 2020.
Usman Kabir covered science, space, and technology for Globely News. As a kid, he would make models of the solar system and take part in water rocket competitions. His childhood obsession has led him to a degree in Space Science. Usman likes to spend his free time watching reruns of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld."