February 23, 2009

India Approves Manned Space Mission

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) plans to launch two people into space for seven days, the planning commission announced on Friday, marking the approval of the nation's first astronaut launch.

"We are planning to put persons in the vehicle and launch them into space for seven days in an orbit of 275 km (172 miles)," said K Radhakrishnan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center.

The announcement to launch astronauts into space by 2015 comes as China has made great strides in its space pursuits. China completed its first space walk last year, and shot down one of its own satellites in 2007. Many see it as the "21st Century Asian version of the Cold War race for the moon," said London's Times Online.

The decision comes after the successful launch of India's first unmanned mission, Chandrayaan-1, which is now orbiting the Moon to compile a 3-D map of its surface among other things. The nation is prepared to launch its second unmanned lunar mission - Chandrayaan-2 "“ in 2011.

"ISRO needs to be supported as it has done marvelous job in the field of Space Science. That's why Planning Commission will support it," said Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the planning commission.

"An unmanned flight will be launched in 2013-2014 and manned mission likely to launch by 2014-2015," he said.

The Cabinet is expected to approve the plan now that the planning commission has approved it, ISRO spokesman S. Satish told The Times.

ISRO also has plans to send astronauts to the moon by 2020, trumping China's lunar plans by four years.

While some critics claim ISRO's space pursuits are unnecessary spending in a country where 76 percent of its population of 1.1 billion lives on less than $2 a day. However, India said it makes money from commercial satellite launches, and scientific research from the space program has helped to develop its information technology industry.

"We have to look forward to China performing military activities from the Moon," said Richard Fischer Jr, a senior fellow on Asian Military Affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

1.75 billion rupees of the government's increased annual budget is being set aside to train astronauts and other space personnel. Radhakrishnan said that amount would be enough to provide development of a new space vehicle.


Image Caption: Chandrayaan-1 lifts off on the PSLV-C11. Courtesy ISRO


On the Net: