Published: Thu, August 16, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

India's Modi announces space mission, health scheme as election nears

India's Modi announces space mission, health scheme as election nears

Gaganyaan, the human space flight Programme green-flagged and set for 2022 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is highly doable, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation K. Sivan said here soon after it was announced on Wednesday.

Speaking from the ramparts of the historic red fort in New Delhi, Modi said it was a "dream" for the country to send a citizen to space before it celebrates 75 years of independence.

"A child of mother India - whether son or daughter, it can be anyone - they will go into space", Modi said.

Ajey Lele, a senior fellow at the Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA), said Modi's proposal was "extremely ambitious". We will have our own spacecraft to send people to the orbit and back.

"Technologies that will help in sending an Indian astronaut to space - like human crew module and environment control and life support system - have already been developed", he added.

The space agency has periodically updated the government on its progress towards these technologies.

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"It's an excellent gift given by the prime minister to the nation", an elated Sivan said. It was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation in October 2008 and operated until August 2009. "The actual manned flight of the space capsule will be preceded by two unmanned flights", Sivan said. The test was critical for a manned mission as it could be needed for pulling out crew members in case of an aborted launch due to some emergency.

India has already completed a Moon and a Mars mission.

India's attempt to reach space by 2022 is about six decades after a Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into outer space and orbit the earth in 1961.

Meanwhile, former ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan, under whose leadership the Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) was launched in 2013, termed the announcement of the Gaganyaan mission a "turning point" for ISRO.

Former space officials also believe the capacity for manned space missions will prepare India to collaborate with other countries for future manned space programmes. It would enhance the national prestige, the ISRO chief said.

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