Bangalore: India plans to launch its first manned space mission in 2016 by sending two astronauts for a week-long sojourn in space.
Dr K Radhakrishnan, chairman of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told reporters in Bangalore that space scientists and senior officials of the ISRO are in the process of preparing a pre-project report to build the infrastructure and facilities needed for the manned space mission.
The ambitious space mission is to cost about Rs 124 billion ($2.76 billion).
In February 2009, the Planning Commission of India had, in principle, approved the project for a manned space flight. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, had then announced that more funds would be allocated, in two phases, in the Eleventh Plan (2007-2012) and the Twelfth Plan (2012-2017).
The government of India had, in 2007-08, allocated Rs 950 million ($10 million) for the pre-project work.
Dr Radhakrishnan said the ISRO will design and develop the space module required for the manned mission in the next 4 years. Two persons will be selected to be trained as astronauts for the space flight.
The Indian Space Research Organisation will set up a full-fledged training facility in Bangalore for training the astronauts.
The ISRO will also build a third launchpad at its Satish Dhawan Space Centre, formerly known as the Sriharikota Range (SHAR), located in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
The spacecraft for the proposed manned spaceflight will have extra facilities such as entry into crew capsule and an escape chute, Dr Radhakrishnan told reporters after releasing a book titled Moon Mission: Exploring the Moon with Chandrayaan-1, authored by S K Das, former member (finance) of the Department of Space.
In order to demonstrate its ability for the re-entry technology, the ISRO had, in 2007, launched a 600-kilogramme space-capsule recovery experiment (SRE) using the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV). The ISRO succeeded in bringing the space capsule back to the Earth safely 12 days later.
The chairman of the ISRO also announced that the configuration for Chandrayaan-2, the next mission to the Moon, is being finalised and that the spacecraft will be launched by 2013.
Chandrayaan-2, a joint venture between the Indian Space Research Organisation and Russia, will include a lunar lander and a rover. The task of the rover, which will move on the surface of the Moon, is to pick up samples of soil and rocks as well as conduct chemical analyses on them. The rover will then send the data to the spacecraft, Chandrayaan-2, orbiting above.
The ISRO had launched Chandrayaan-1 on October 22, 2008. The cuboid-shaped Chandrayaan-1 had carried the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, or M3, of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the space agency of the United States.
The M3 had found water molecules on the surface of the Moon – a finding which was corroborated further by three other reports.