The astronauts on the human space mission 'Gaganyaan' will mostly be pilots, hinted Indian Space Research Organisation scientists Friday. "We are looking for people with sufficient flying experience," said an ISRO scientist requesting anonymity. ISRO Chairman K Sivan said the Indian Air Force and other agencies will play a major role during the selection of astronauts for the human space mission project. Another scientist said the Defence Research and Development Organisation too will play a major role in this endeavour. Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Sivan said the first unmanned mission for 'Gaganyaan' has been planned for December 2020, the second unmanned mission for July 2021 and the final manned mission by December 2021.
He said the selection process will also start this year. The ISRO has already established a Human Space Flight Centre for Gaganyaan project. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the project envisaging sending three humans to space by 2022.
In response to a question on space law, Sivan said a policy on this is expected soon. Talking about country’s space expertise, Sivan said that India is nowhere less than China in the arena of space, and after the success of human space mission project 'Gaganyaan', it will be equal to its neighbour in all aspects related to the field. This month, Chang'e 4, the first Chinese mission to land on and explore the Moon's far side facing away from Earth, carried instruments to analyse the region's geology.
India also has an ambitious mission, Chandrayaan-2, to land on Moon's South Pole, a region unexplored by any country so far, Sivan said.
The plan was to initially launch the mission in April last year, but it has now been postponed to the first quarter of this year.
"We are nowhere less than China," Sivan said in response to a question that sought to draw a parallel between the two space-faring Asian countries.
He added that India was at par in regards to launch vehicles and spacecraft. "They had the human space capability, which we did not have, but once we have a successful Gaganyaan project by 2022, we will be equal to them in all aspects," Sivan said.
India and China are two major space-faring giants. While India has launched the South Asian satellite as a gift to its neighbours, China too has been actively engaged with Pakistan and Sri Lanka in these areas. Sivan said after the launch of South Asian satellite in 2017, Nepal has started using it for broadcasting television in remote and far-flung places "where people have said they have seen a television for the first time" with the help of the satellite.
Elucidating the reasons for Chandrayaan-2 launch delay, he said during the National Experts Review in February last year, it was found that it needed to be improved in terms of robustness. "Because of the constraints due to the size of the satellite, they cut down many systems. Experts felt that it was a very important mission and we have to increase the robustness. So, the satellite was reconfigured to take care of the improvements. With that, the schedule was December (2018) to January (2019).
"Since all systems are new and we have to go through testing process and we found that testing was not complete and we're not able to meet the February 2019 schedule. The next available slot was April 2019," he said. Responding to another question on NaVIC, India's own GPS, he said the armed forces have started using the indigenously developed system.
Listing out key priorities in 2019, Sivan said ISRO has planned 32 missions, including Chandrayaan-2. He said the first flight of Small Satellite Launch Vehicles (SSLVs) will be in July 2019 and the demonstration of a Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology, aimed to saved cost, will also take place this year.
GSAT-20, advanced microwave remote-sensing RISAT series of satellites, the advance geo-imaging GISAT series of satellites will also be launched this year, Sivan said.