- First person to go to space from Indian soil can be man or woman: PM Modi
- Calls 'Mission Gaganyaan' ISRO's biggest challenge due to short deadline
- ISRO aims to send 3 Indians to space on its biggest rocket GSLV Mk III
The 370-year-old Red Fort today played venue for a colossal announcement, the ramifications of which perhaps for the first time extend beyond earth itself. India will become the fourth nation to send man to space, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on India's 72nd Independence Day - his fifth and final address ahead of the next general elections.
"Today, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, I want to give the country a good news," Prime Minister Modi said. "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," he added.
Exhilarated at the announcement, top scientists at ISRO exuded their optimism for the challenge. Dr K Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said it was a "very, very tight schedule but ISRO will do it by 2022."
"ISRO sought manned mission for a decade... Vyom will be a national effort, not just an ISRO project. It will boost national pride," he 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.
The space agency plans to spend Rs 9,000 crore and hopes to launch the first mission within 40 months. 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.
India plans to call its astronauts "Vyomnauts" since "Vyom" in Sanskrit means space.
Till date, ISRO has spent Rs 173 crore developing critical technologies for human space flight. The plan was first pitched in 2008 but was put on the backburner as the economy and Indian rockets experienced setbacks.
India tested its re-entry technology through the Satellite Recovery Experiment in 2007 when a 550 kilogram satellite was sent into orbit and then safely brought back to earth.
The experiment tested the lightweight silicon tiles that can protect any spaceship as it re-enters the earth's atmosphere.
Later, in 2014, India tested a Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE), where a 3,745 kg space capsule - a prototype of the crew module that will be used by the Indian astronauts - was launched into the atmosphere on the first flight of the GSLV Mk III and then safely recovered from the Bay of Bengal.
Since then, ISRO has also mastered the art of making a spacesuit which will be used by Indian astronauts when they get sent into space from Sriharikota.
Earlier this year, ISRO carried out a crucial Pad Abort Test on July 5, when a 12.5-ton crew module was tested to make sure in case of an accident on the launchpad, the crew can be rescued safely.