NEW DELHI – The Indian Space Research Organization said on Friday it was working on its selection of three astronauts who would be sent into space to participate in a week-long orbiting mission slated for December 2021.
The Indian space agency will finish setting up the Space Flight Center this year along with the selection and training of the crew members who will work on the Gaganyaan mission, the head of ISRO Kailasavadivoo Sivan told journalists in New Delhi.
A management structure has been created by ISRO for the mission, said Sivan, who added that a first unmanned mission will take place in December 2020 and a second was scheduled for July 2021. The human space flight is meanwhile scheduled for December 2021.
The government of Narendra Modi approved a budget of more than $1.4 billion for the mission, the most ambitious space plan that has been developed by the Asian country, on Dec. 28.
The ISRO chief also said the launch of Chandrayaan-2, India’s second rover mission to the Moon, was scheduled to take place in mid-April.
Chandrayaan-2’s launch, which was initially scheduled for 2018, rescheduled for early February this year, and has now be set for between March 25-April 30, according to the ISRO.
The launch was delayed for adjustments to satellite technology to be made and because tests were not carried out on time.
“We couldn’t do it because the tests were not complete,” said Sivan upon being asked about the reasons for the delay in the launch of the vehicle designed completely by India.
The Chandrayaan-2 comes after the Chandrayaan-1 mission in November 2008.
When asked about the Chinese lunar probe Chang’e 4 that landed on the Moon on Jan. 3, Sivan said unlike China’s mission, the Chandrayaan-2 “is going to land in a place where nobody had landed.”
“We are not less than China,” he said.
India has one of the most active space programs of the world and began placing Earth satellites in orbit in 1999.
It is part of an exclusive group of countries that have a satellite navigation system, including the United States (GPS) and Russia (GLONASS), among others.