Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attracted world’s media and space enthusiasts’ attention ever since he announced that India will send astronauts into space by 2022 (or earlier than the specified year), which marks India’s 75 years of independence.
India would be third such country to send humans into space after USA, Russia and China. It would be a proud moment for every Indian if India manages to do so. But, if you ask does India really has such potential, technology and capability to handle such an ambitious mission called Gaganyaan? Chairman of ISRO, K. Sivan has a firm answer to that. He believes India has the capability to execute the mission successfully, and he also expressed his confidence in making India proud within the 4-year time frame.
In reality, the groundwork for manned space mission was started way back in 2004 when ISRO Policy Planning Committee put the proposal of a manned mission before the government. However, the project was only on papers and never took a proper shape until PM Modi announced it on the Independence day.
In 2009, the manned space mission again grabbed the headlines of newspapers when the then chairman of ISRO, Madhavan Nair disclosed the blueprints of the two and three crew spacecraft designs in Bangalore.
Sending humans into space also needs a huge budget. It is estimated that ‘Gaganyan’ needs a budget of Rs 10,000 crore. It sounds huge, however, it is very less compared to what other countries have invested for such missions. A few days back, Union Cabinet approved Rs 10,000 crore budget for Gaganyan.
Earlier, India used to struggle with limited resources and also due to the weak economy. But now, it is one of the world’s biggest economies. This could also be the reason that still India couldn’t send humans into space despite taking initiation almost 15 years back.
The major challenge ahead of ISRO is that it has to bring humans back to earth after transporting them into space in a spacecraft, which it never did before. Apart from this, ISRO needs to overcome challenges like developing a crew escape system (called Pad Abort Test - which comes handy for astronauts during unforeseen conditions of the rocket launch), life support system, space capsule, space flight suits, etc
ISRO Chairman K Sivan said that India has already developed the above-mentioned technologies, and is currently testing those technologies as they have to undergo many useful developments to actually be able to propel the human spacecraft into space.
IAF (Indian Air Force) and ISRO together will recruit the astronauts. They will be trained at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bangalore, and space centre located in Russia. Under this project, three astronauts will be on a voyage around the earth for five-seven days.
The launch vehicle would be GSLV Mk-III (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III), also called LVM-3 (Launch Vehicle Mark-3). ISRO had already successfully tested GSLV Mk-III-D1/GSAT-19 & GSLV Mk-III-D2/GSAT-29 on June 2017, and November 14, 2018, respectively. Through GSLV Mk-III, 2 unmanned Test flights will be tested before the actual manned spacecraft takes off.
The GSLV Mk-III is 43.43 m tall with a diameter of 4 m and is capable of propelling payload of up to 10 tonnes into space. Thus, it signifies that it more than enough to send three humans into space.
The space capsule, also called crew module, is crucial as it is the place where astronauts live during their voyage. Thus, a human-friendly environment must be built in the capsule. The Indian space giant will receive assistance from the French space agency to provide support to astronauts in the form of space medicine, health, hygiene, protection from radiation, life support, and space debris protection.
The space capsule will be equipped with a thermal shield and coated with lightweight silicon tiles to endure the fire as it turns into a fireball while returning back to earth because of the friction. It is also said the astronauts would be able to see the fire through windows, however, the temperature inside the capsule remains below 25 degree Celsius.
The total duration of the voyage: 5-7 days
Rocket launch centre: Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC)
Launch vehicle: GSLV Mk-III
Time to reach earth’s Orbit: 16 minutes (the space capsule will take 36 minutes to reach earth)
Splashdown: Arabian sea
Total Budget: Rs 10, 000 crore