According to Madhavan Nair, the Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO):
“We are considering a manned space flight of our own. Russia has vast experience in man-controlled spaceflight, which we hope it will share with us to help the Indian space programme. We plan to perform the first Indian space flight on a Russian space vessel.”
In April of 1984, India launched its first Indo-Soviet mission onboard a Salyut-7. Rakesh Sharma, an Indian Air Force pilot, became the first Indian astronaut to travel in space. Nearly three decades after Sharma’s historic flight, in keeping with its primary objective to develop space technology for India, the ISRO is scheduling a human space flight known as the Chandrayaan-II project for the year 2015, which will herald the onset of Indian Space Research.
Late last year, India and Russia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Activities in the Field of Human Spaceflight Programme. ISRO also sent a space capsule, which was recovered after 22 days in orbit. Once again according to Madhavan Nair:
“As per the agreement, an Indian astronaut will first go on a space mission on a Russian spacecraft. An Indian-manned mission to space in 2015 will follow. ISRO and the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, will jointly build the spacecraft for the Indian manned mission and we will be redesigning the Soyuz space capsule of the Russian agency for our mission.”
Anatoly Perminov, director of the Russian Space Agency, or Roskosmos said:
"This is a very interesting project. Russia and India will be developing a spacecraft jointly."
Russia and India are also expected to collaborate on launch vehicles for future space missions. The two sides will also set up the India-Russia Centre for Technology Transfer. If the mission is successful, India will become the fourth nation in the world after the US, Russia and China to send a manned mission into outer space. The space race grows with each passing day, and now includes Iran, whose leaders recently announced will embark on a manned space flight by the year 2021.
Under the ambitious $2.5 billion plan, India's space agency has proposed to put two people into space orbit at 274 km (about 170 miles) above the earth for seven days. It is indeed a costly venture, as project critics have claimed. But just like any pancake worth its salt, the issue has two sides. In addition to mounting Indian prestige as a growing world power, the mission will also bring military advantages, as the space mission will help India achieve ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) capability. In the words of one official who preferred anonymity:
“To place a spacecraft in orbit we will require a bigger rocket booster. This large rocket booster will help India acquire the ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) capability.”
Putin had this to say:
"We plan to continue our cooperation with India in such high-tech spheres as telecommunications and exploration of space.”
The manned space mission will carry a two-member crew and these IAF (Indian Air Force) pilots will make history as the second Indian astronauts to go into space after Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma. The ISRO wanted one of its scientists onboard the mission along with an IAF) pilot, but the air force won out with its demand that both should be IAF personnel.
One senior IAF official said:
“The crew will consist of two members. We had a meeting with the ISRO scientists and they insisted on sending one scientist and one air force pilot, but we have proposed to depute one of our engineers also with them for training till the mission happens. To be in constant touch with the astronauts as they revolve around the earth, we will need to interlink our satellites, which in turn will boost our reconnaissance capability. Presently we are able to get 15 minutes of feed daily from our satellites. The space mission will give us 90 minutes.”
India is also looking at having manned lunar mission by 2020 and a mission to Mars by 2030. Keeping up with China and other world powers is no small impetus in determining India’s next move in outer space.
One question remains:
Is there room for one more on board?