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What’s in the news?

  • Former ISRO chief attributes delay to political factors and changed priorities
  • India could have put an astronaut in space in 2015 had the original plan for the human spaceflight programme worked out, former ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair has said.
  • Madhavan Nair, who headed the space agency from 2003 to 2009, attributed the delay to political factors and the changed priorities of the subsequent ISRO management.
  • “But it’s never too late. ISRO now has a strong chairman in K. Sivan. The human spaceflight mission will be a turning point in the Indian space programme,” he told The Hindu on Friday, responding to ISRO’s formal announcement that it plans to put three Indians in space in December 2021.
  • According to Madhavan Nair, it was in 2005 that ISRO decided that it was time to think beyond the grand vision of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. “Dr. Sarabhai wanted India to achieve self-reliance in satellite building, launch vehicle technology and, more importantly, ensure that the common man benefited from these technologies. We took a review in 2005. The question was, what next?” recalls Mr. Nair.

Natural choice:

  • The human spaceflight programme was a natural choice as a target for the future, he said.
  • “Human access to space had become very important for various reasons. One, ISRO had improved in terms of launch vehicle technology. Second, if we are to send humans to the Moon and Mars, we have to make a beginning,” he said.
  • In 2008, ISRO prepared a project report and submitted it to Space Commission. The same year, a small team was formed at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) to study various aspects of spaceflight and the technologies that such a venture called for. It was headed by S. Unnikrishnan Nair, who was appointed project director, Human Spaceflight Programme (HSP). The team consisted of 10 to 12 people.

Green light:

  • “In 2009, the Planning Commission gave the green light for the programme.
  • “In 2009, the plan was to have the mission in six years. So, by 2015, we would have been flying in earth orbit. But unfortunately, due to various political factors and probably, the attitude of the subsequent management in ISRO it was put in cold storage,” he said.

About India’s Human spaceflight:

  • Prime Minister announced that India will send an astronaut to space in the year 2022. He was addressing the nation on India’s 72nd Independence Day. “I make this announcement today, before 2022, an Indian astronaut – son or daughter – will be in space. One of us will carry the tricolour to the space to commemorate the 75th year of India’s Independence.”
  • The name of the mission is Gaganyaan and it is a crewed orbital spacecraft expected to carry 3 members on board.Gaganyaan joins Chandrayaan-1, India’s first lunar probe, and Mangalyaan, the Mars Orbiter Mission project, orbiting Mars.With this, India could potentially become the fourth country to send a man to space, after the erstwhile USSR, the US and China. Denmark also has a manned space flight scheduled for 2022.
  • The total programme is expected to be complete before 2022. Two unmanned Gaganyaan missions will be undertaken prior to sending humans. As per ISRO schedule, the first and second unmanned flights would be sent in orbit within 30 and 36 months beginning from August 2018.
  • GSLV Mk III, the three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle, will be used to launch Gaganyaan as it has the necessary payload capability. The mission is estimated at Rs 9,000 crore.
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