At a time when COVID-19 has rusted all major activities around the globe, adding over 19K new cases in India today and reaching new daily highs, the government has come forth with some good news on the space front. The news came on Monday, in a briefing by the Union Minister of State for the Department of Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh who said that the launch of India’s first human space mission, ‘Gaganyaan’, will not be affected by the ongoing pandemic with all preparations continuing in the desired direction.
The Gaganyaan programme was announced by Prime Minister Modi in his Independence Day speech in 2018. The indigenous mission is slated to take 3 Indian astronauts to space for a minimum of 7 days as part of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme. The programme, when launched, would be our first time at a manned space mission making India only the fourth country ever to send a human to space.
Earlier, the virus outbreak had forced the training of four Indian astronauts in Russia to be halted. However, the training has now resumed and according to the chairman and scientific team at ISRO, a ‘cushion’ was kept in the training and the launch deadlines of the mission. This ensures that the Gaganyaan is well on track to launch as per schedule – before India celebrates its 75th Anniversary of Independence in 2022.
The union minister went on to talk about the Cabinet’s decision to encourage the participation of private players in ISRO saying that a regulatory body called “Indian National Space Promotion & Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe)” would be established. He also mentioned that this would help provide a level playing field for private players and encourage their participation. Besides enhancing the capacity and resources of our space missions, increased participation of private players will also discourage the brain drain of talented space scientists and experts who were otherwise moving out of India in search of a break, he added.
Earlier this year, ISRO chief K. Sivan had said, “2020 will be the year of Chandrayaan-3 and Gaganyaan”. Talking about the former, Dr. Jitendra Singh in the brief said that as of today, it is planned for launch next year. He continued, saying that the mission would involve a lander, rover, and a propulsion system to carry the modules to move, but it would not have an orbiter as the previous one is fully operational.