New Delhi: The process for selecting three astronauts for India’s first manned space flight will begin at the earliest to give them enough time to train for the 2022 mission, which is slated to cost less than ₹10,000 crore.
“We need to select our astronauts at the earliest as they would require at least three years for training. They could be from the air force or Isro (Indian Space Research Organisation), or even a common man. Since it’s our first mission, we would prefer a pilot. The initial training will be done at the Institute for Aerospace Medicine in Bengaluru,” Isro chairman K. Sivan said at a press conference that was attended by the minister of state for atomic energy and space, Jitender Singh.
“We are confident and we have had a good start. We will try to execute the project within 40 months. Prior to this we will send two unmanned missions, the first in next 30 months,” Sivan said.
The second unmanned mission will be undertaken six months after the first, he said.
Scientists have been working on the project since 2004, said the Isro chief, adding that the prototype of the space suit is ready.
The mission, which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech, is set to be a turning point in space history, as it would make India one of only four countries in the world, after Russia, US and China, to launch a manned space flight.
Singh contended that it would be the cheapest human space mission ever. “The entire cost of the mission is estimated to be less than ₹10,000 crore. It is unbelievable, even according to international standards or other manned space missions of Russia or US,” he said.
A seven-tonne orbital module consisting of a crew module with three astronauts and a service module would be sent into space in launch vehicle Mark-3. Within 16 minutes of its launch from Sriharikota, the module would reach the low-earth orbit at 400km, where it would remain for five to seven days. The astronauts would conduct micro-gravity experiments, which is the main purpose of the mission.
On seventh day, the crew module would re-orient and separate itself from the service module. It would land on earth within 36 minutes, in the Arabian Sea, close to Ahmedabad.
“Both the crew escape system and the environment control of life support system are critical to ensure the safety of our astronauts. However, we are confident. We have the technology and we just need to integrate it to go ahead,” Sivan said.
The mission would generate jobs for 15,000 people, of whom 13,000 would be from industries and a thousand from academic institutes.
Isro has lined up 19 other missions till March 2019, including a small satellite launch vehicle, to be assembled in three days instead of the usual 60 days and by six people instead of 600, Sivan said.