Will ISRO’s Gaganyaan lift India’s stature in space?

The country is taking on crossing the final frontier by putting humans in space

India is on its way to becoming a crewed spacefaring nation – a title held by an elite group of countries including Russia, the U.S. and China.

Through the Gaganyaan mission, India is certain that three of its vyomanauts will unfurl its national flag in space by 2022. By doing so, the country will join the elite club by becoming the world’s fourth nation to send humans to space.

The mission, headed by R Hutton, is just India’s first step towards the Human Spaceflight Programme directed by Dr. V. R. Lalithambika – which might even put vyomanauts on the Moon, and beyond.

Initially the programme will see two unmanned test flights, the first in December 2020, and the second in July 2021. Following these tests will be Gaganyaan’s maiden crewed launch in December 2021, when we’ll see ISRO launching the manned spacecraft into Earth’s orbit at 400km for up to seven days, unlike the first manned spaceflight in history, Russia’s Vostok 1 – which lasted for around 100 minutes.

The Gaganyaan project has been gaining momentum ever since it was accepted and announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address in August 2018.

The project saw green light when the Indian Union Cabinet approved the project at a cost of Rs 10,000 crores ($1.4 billion) in December 2018. A new dedicated centre responsible for the planning, engineering and training for the Gaganyaan project – the Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC), under Dr. S Unnikrishnan Nair, was inaugurated at ISRO headquarter in Bengaluru on Jan 30, 2019. The Indian Air Force was recently tasked by ISRO with the selection and training of ten candidates out of which three will climb aboard the spacecraft to their way to space.

ISRO

The nation is proud of its Chandrayaan 1, the adventures of Mangalyaan in Mars’ orbit and that time when ISRO launched 104 satellites in one go for which it was long famed, but Gaganyaan is unlike any challenge the space agency has taken on before.

India sending its vyomanauts to space in 2022 might not make history, seeing as Russia did it back in 1960s, followed by the space race which saw humans spacewalking and even putting footsteps on the Moon.

But this just might be the turning point in India’s future as a spacefaring nation.

It won’t take long before vyomanauts make their way to the International Space Station. The Gaganyaan mission will put ISRO on its way to be in line with SpaceX and Boeing, which aim to give back the U.S. its ability to send Americans to space through the Commercial Crew Program.

If space mining becomes a thing in the future, the spacefaring nations will surely have the advantage over others.

With the remarkably low cost Moon and Mars missions, ISRO showed the world that space exploration is possible for anyone. The Mangalyaan reached Mars orbit at a cost of $78 million, while the sci-fi Hollywood movie – Interstellar, cost $165 million.

Some might ask why India is sending humans to space instead of trying to lift more of its citizens out of poverty. Elon Musk just might have a good answer for those.

There are exciting times ahead for India and human spaceflight. If the launch goes as planned, it will ignite the passion for space exploration for more people in India and worldwide and inspire them to learn more about the Universe.

With the fast-growing space industry set to reach $1 trillion by 2040, advancements in the space sector is a necessity, more than an aspiration. Technological developments in space exploration will create new jobs in the field and help with the economic development of the country.

Nevertheless, sending humans to space and bringing them back to Earth safely is no easy feat – even if it’s been done a thousand times before, by top space agencies.

A rocket launch is one long controlled explosion after all. Things could always go wrong, no matter how experienced you are. That’s the beauty of it.

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