Budget 2021-22 prioritises Gaganyaan, India’s human spaceflight mission, over all others — here’s why

Budget 2021-22 prioritises Gaganyaan, India’s human spaceflight mission,  over all others — here’s why
<p>GSLV Mark III X, also called LMV-3 X, takes off with the crew module on board for the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) in preparation for Gaganyaan<br></p>ISRO
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman declared that India’s first human spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan, will conduct its first unmanned launch by the end of the year.
  • Other space exploration missions like Chandrayaan-3, Shukrayaan, and Mangalyaan-2 did not make it into her Budget 2021-22 address.
  • Here are some of the reasons why these missions may not be on the government’s docket this year.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has made sure that Indian astronauts will have a shot at being in space and orbiting the planet by next year in the Budget 2021-22.

India’s first human spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan, is estimated to be a year behind schedule due to the impact of COVID-19. The mission is required to clear two uncrewed missions before human testing can begin. Sitharaman has promised that at least one is likely to take place before the end of the year.

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Budget 2021-22 prioritises Gaganyaan, India’s human spaceflight mission,  over all others — here’s why
Human Space Flight Centre has been set up in BangaloreISRO

“As a part of the Gaganyaan mission activities, four Indian astronauts are being trained on Generic Space Flight aspects in Russia. The first unmanned launch is slated for December 2021,” she said during her speech.
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While this is encouraging news for India's ambitions to explore space, other missions — like Chandrayaan-3 for exploring the Moon, Shukrayaan headed to Venus and Mangalyaan-2 to Mars — did not make it into the Finance Minister’s address.

ISRO takes up one mission at a time
According to space expert Chaitanya Giri, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is not in the habit of pursuing more than one mission at a time.

Even at the time of Chandrayaan, the same team that worked on the payloads for Mangalyaan.
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So, the team working on Ganganyaan is likely to be the same one that will work on Chandrayaan-3 before going to work on Shukrayaan.

“It’s a COVID year, and they had to make a choice,” Giri told Business Insider in an exclusive interview.

Budget 2021-22 prioritises Gaganyaan, India’s human spaceflight mission,  over all others — here’s why
Inauguration of the Human Space Flight Centre for the Gaganyaan Project with ISRO director K Sivan (center)ISRO

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Modi’s word against the rest of the world
The reason Gaganyaan trumps others is because Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his word in 2018 that the mission would take place before India’s 75th year of independence. A timeline that has now been disrupted due to COVID-19.

With the first uncrewed launch will take place in December 2021, the actual manned mission is expected to take place well into 2022.

The astronauts training to go into space have spent over a year in Russia. At home, the space capsule is ready as well.

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ISRO has successfully conducted the pad-abort test and space capsule recovery experiment. “The precursors for orbital human spaceflight have already been accomplished. ISRO only needs to go ahead and demonstrate that they can do it now,” said Giri.

Budget 2021-22 prioritises Gaganyaan, India’s human spaceflight mission,  over all others — here’s why
Crew Module floating in the Andaman Sea after splash downISRO

In addition to Modi’s promise, the success of Gaganyaan is also important from a geopolitical point of view. India has been racing to catch up to China in the realm of planetary exploration.

Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander failed to touch down on the Moon but China succeeded with Chang’e 5. Human spaceflight is the next frontier in their race to catch up to their western counterparts like the US, Europe, Russia, and Japan.
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