India’s first manned space mission could face long delays over barriers: experts

By Deng Xiaoci Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/15 0:52:06

India’s first could face long delays over barriers

India launched the spacecraft Vikram Lander of Chandrayaan-2 on July 22, 2019. Photo: VCG

India could face a delay for years in its first-ever manned space mission scheduled for December 2021, as numerous obstacles, including the development of a launch vehicle with a payload capacity up to mission requirements, still need to be overcome, Chinese experts said on Tuesday. 

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan said the four male astronauts — all originally Indian Air Force pilots - shortlisted for the project would receive physical fitness training in Russia for 11 months, but the first spaceflight in December 2021 may carry just one person, Hindustan Times reported.

"We are designing the mission for three people to go into low earth orbit for seven days." 

"However, whether we send two people or one person and whether they spend seven days or one day in orbit will be decided later on in the mission after the two unmanned flights," Sivan was quoted as saying in the report.

The Indian manned program is codenamed "Gaganyaan" and expected to cost more than $1.4 billion, the report said.

Previously, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the space mission from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 2018, saying that "an Indian son or daughter" will carry the national flag on the trip when the country celebrates its 75th anniversary of Independence in 2022.

There is no denying that it would be a huge achievement for India, and if it manages to pull off the manned spaceflight mission, it would make India the fourth country to achieve the feat independently, following the US, Russia and China, Chinese space scientists said.

"It will fill in the void of manned space technology for India, greatly enhance the country's international prestige, and demonstrate the country's overall strength to the world," Pang Zhihao, a renowned Chinese space expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

However, he pointed out that India still needs to overcome multiple barriers, which could delay the maiden flight of the Indian spacecraft for manned mission for years. 

The development of a reliable launch vehicle with a payload capacity of at least seven tons to the low Earth orbit, where most of the man-made objects in outer space are placed, could be one of the most challenging tasks for India, he said.

Also, compared with unmanned spacecraft, a manned one would need more unique systems such as environmental control and live sustaining system [to create a human life-friendly ecosystem in space], emergency response and rescue system and an Earth re-entry system, of which India lacks the experience, he told the Global Times.

To overcome the obstacles in such a tight schedule, India would probably seek assistance from Russia, and borrow experiences in the development of spacecraft and ecosystem from the world's space powerhouse, Wang Yanan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times.

However, Wang warned that even with Russia's help, India should abide by the laws of science and pace itself, otherwise, technological challenges would turn into risks.

The ISRO also aims to undertake more human space flights and build a station in outer space after completing the maiden mission of Gaganyaan, Sivan said, India media outlet India Economic Times reported on Tuesday. 

ISRO has designed an autonomous 3.7-ton spacecraft to carry a three-man crew to space, but is likely to have only one astronaut in its maiden human space flight, it said.

Global Times

Newspaper headline: Manned space mission woes


blog comments powered by Disqus