The first Indian to venture into space, former Indian Air Force pilot Rakesh Sharma, today gave his thumbs up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan to have a national space mission by 2022. Rakesh Sharma said the ambitious mission, which plans to send an Indian into space, is "a coming of age" and a "natural corollary" of every space programme.
India will become the fourth nation after US, Russia and China to send a human to space, if the mission becomes successful.
"If we wish to improve our existence on Earth, we need to ensure that future ventures in outer space, ought to work for the greater good of humankind back on Earth" he said, adding that future ventures into outer space are "not, solely, for the benefit of one or another nation."
Astronaut Wing Commander (Retd) Rakesh Sharma was a part of Russia's (formerly the USSR) Soyuz T-11 space mission. The expedition was launched on April 2, 1984.
While many people of Indian origin have so far ventured into space, including late astronaut Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, none have done so in an indigenous space mission.
Coined 'Gaganyaan', the 2022 space mission, according to ISRO chairman Dr K Sivan, will cost around Rs 9,000 crore and will run on a "very, very tight schedule".
"But ISRO will do it," Dr Sivan added.
ISRO hopes to deploy its biggest rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III), to send three Indians into space from Sriharikota in the next few years.
"India has always advanced in space science but we have decided that by 2022 when India completes 75 years of Independence, or before that, a son or daughter of India will go to space with a tricolor in their hands," PM Modi said in his speech at the Red Fort today.
The plans in the "demonstration phase" includes undertaking two unmanned flights and one human flight using Indian technology to catapult a crew of three into a low earth orbit for 5-7 days.
ISRO has, until now, spent around Rs 173 crore to develop critical technologies for human space flight. The first time a plan to launch an Indian to space was in 2008. That plan however, was put into a backburner as the economy and Indian rockets experienced setbacks.