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An Indian on moon in 20 years?
M D Riti in Bangalore | February 12, 2004 08:36 IST
Last Updated: February 12, 2004 09:11 IST
When an American man steps onto the moon again in another 20 years, will an Indian be with him?
Indian Space Research Organisation's new chairman G Madhavan Nair does not rule out the possibility.
US President George W Bush recently announced that his government is thinking of organising another manned mission to the moon within the next two decades. "If there are any useful scientific experiments which can be beneficial to us, we will participate," said Nair, rather guardedly, in an exclusive interview with rediff.com.
The issue would be discussed with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials at a joint Indo-US workshop in Bangalore in June this year on peaceful exploration of space and on areas of scientific and business cooperation.
Meanwhile, Nair prefers to focus attention on Chandrayaan-1, India's own scientific mission to the Moon. "We have room for a 15-20kg article in the proposed spacecraft. This could be offered to other space agencies," he says referring to the possibility of international involvement in the mission. "There are some proposals from other countries but the final selection of the payload will be made after a detailed evaluation, including the extent to which it can complement India's own scientific objective."
Chandrayaan is estimated to cost Rs 386crore. "This includes Rs 100crore for establishing a Deep Space Network Station at Bangalore, which will be a major scientific asset for future space exploration missions. The rest will go towards building a launch vehicle, a spacecraft and development of scientific instruments and some new technologies."
It is a multi institution project. "ISRO will be responsible for the launch vehicle, the spacecraft and the Deep Space Network Station. The development of scientific instruments will involve other R&D institutions in the country."
The chosen launch vehicle for Chandrayaan is the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. If its upper stage is modified to accommodate about 2,200 kg of propellant, it can easily send a 530kg spacecraft on a fly-by mission or launch a 350kg spacecraft into orbit around the moon.
ISRO's latest generation satellite launcher, the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), can send an 850-950kg spacecraft on a fly-by mission to the moon or place a 600kg spacecraft in orbit around the moon, after incorporating a Trans Lunar Injection stage with 3,400kg of propellant.
India would then be the fourth country after the United States, Russia and Japan to send a spacecraft to the moon. While the scientific value of another mission to the moon might be limited considering that probes have been exploring Earth's satellite since the 1950s, the mission would undoubtedly be a landmark for India's engineers.
Former ISRO chairman U R Rao favoured a manned space flight whereas Nair's immediate predecessor Dr K Kasturirangan maintained that, at this juncture, it would be a waste of resources.
"Since its inception, the Indian space programme's primarily objective has been to use space technology for national developmental tasks such as communication, broadcasting, meteorology and survey of resources," says Nair.
"However, over the years, India has established certain capabilities in launching spacecraft, building earth observation satellites, mission, management, etc. It is now proposed that these be now used for undertaking a scientific mission to the Moon, observe the solar system and other galaxies."
"There is no immediate plan for undertaking a manned space mission. But the GSLV Mark III, which is under development, can place a payload of up to 4tonne in a geo-stationary orbit. It can also place a 10tonne module in a lower orbit, which is sufficient to undertake a manned mission.
"However, a manned mission involves design and development of life support systems, launch and recovery technology to ensure a safe passage to space and back, which are very expensive."
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