An Indian astronaut, be it a man or a woman, will go on a space odyssey by 2022 on board ‘Gaganyaan’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day address here. He said when India celebrates the 75th year of Independence in 2022, “and if possible even before, an Indian son or daughter” will undertake a manned space mission on board ‘Gaganyaan’ “carrying the national flag”. Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first lunar probe. It was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation in October 2008 and operated until August 2009.

India plans to build a crew vehicle that can accommodate 2 or 3 astronauts and human rate its GLSV Mk-III launcher. In 2004, ISRO prepared a document with the road-map for developing technologies relevant to human spaceflight.

Initially, a manned space flight was proposed before 2017, at a budget of Rs 12.4 billion ($242 million), using a fully autonomous orbital vehicle carrying two or three crew members to 400-km (250 miles) low Earth orbit for up to 7 days and back. The planning commission approved the mission and the government sanctioned Rs 95 crore to study all aspects of the manned space mission.

ISRO has initiated pre-project Research and Development activities focusing on critical technologies for Human Space Fight Program.

Three major areas that ISRO needs to master are, environmental control and life support (ECLS) system, crew escape system and flight suite and it’s currently working on them, under pre-project studies for which the Government sanctioned Rs 145 crore.

Recent technological advancements:

In what appears to be a preparation for the Gaganyaan mission, ISRO last month conducted its first ‘pad abort’ test that was successful.

The ‘pad abort’ test or Crew Escape System is an emergency escape measure that helps pull the crew away from the launch vehicle when a mission has to be aborted. The test was conducted at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

The Pad Abort Test demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad.

A manned space mission is very different from all other missions that ISRO has so far completed. In terms of complexity and ambition, even the missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan) and Mars (Mangalyaan) are nowhere in comparison.

For a manned mission, the key distinguishing capabilities that ISRO has had to develop include the ability to bring the spacecraft back to Earth after the flight, and to build a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space.

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