Manned Space Plan Shelved, ISRO Gears Up for Robotic Mission Instead


Even as India’s human space flight mission has been put on hold, the country is working hard to send a robotic mission to space. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has already sent a proposal for approval to the central government for carrying out an unmanned mission to space.

The premier space agency, which managed to launch the world’s cheapest mission to Mars, would require somewhere between `30,000 and `4,000 crore for the human space flight mission. And, questions have already been raised on whether the country is ready to shell out that kind of money. The Mars Orbiter Mission had cost India `450 crore.

“The larger question would be about the real need to put a man on the flight. Is it for prestige or is there a need? If the government and the political system are convinced about the need, then they will give us the money and we will do it,” said S Somanath, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram.

The project has received minuscule funding from the central government in the general budget over the past three years. “Today, robotic experiments are possible and we may launch unmanned mission to demonstrate our technology. We have already given the proposal to the government and we are waiting for approval,” the VSSC director said.

Somanath said sending humans to space may not reap any tangible benefits. Despite a lukewarm response from government, the ISRO has been working to design different technologies required for human space flight.

“We have already developed experimental crew modules, demonstrated a parachute based recovery system, space suits for human travel and necessary systems for surviving in space with oxygen,” Somanath wondered.

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ISRO is also expected to do the first test of the reusable rocket launch vehicle (RLV) technology for low cost access to space in first quarter of the year. The winged vehicle will take off like a rocket and land like an aircraft. The RLV launch, scheduled in 2015, has been delayed due to unavailability of launch pad at Sriharikota.