NEW DELHI - The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) soon will ask the Indian government to approve a human spaceflight mission by 2014-15 at a projected cost of $2.5 billion.
The Space Commission headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will review ISRO's request, contained in a report on the agency's next five-year plan. A decision is expected by the end of 2008.
"Today the U.S., Russia and China have a capability to have a manned mission," ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair told reporters April 28. "We cannot be left behind in the space race. Further, man's presence is absolutely necessary in a spacecraft for conducting some experiments."
India already is contributing to the budding international effort to return humans to the moon in the 2020s with its Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, set for launch late this summer with an array of mapping instruments that will generate data for future lunar explorers.
The Indian agency also has started working on long-lead items required for human missions, including spacesuits and simulation facilities, using $23 million in preliminary funding already approved by the government.
"The man-rating reliability, which is very high today, has to be increased," ISRO spokesman S. Satish said. "In addition, building a space capsule that addresses an emergency escape system and comfort for the crew to sit and travel has to be looked at."
The new report on ISRO's plans includes 70 missions in the next five years, compared to 26 conducted in the past five.
"The proposed missions will be a combination of satellite launches with transponders for enhancing communications, education, health, remote sensing, observatory and exploratory," Nair said. "In addition to lunar and manned missions, we will undertake projects for re-entry vehicles and recovery capsules."
ISRO plans to adopt a new configuration of its Space Recovery Capsule, launched into a 635-kilometer (395-mile) polar orbit along with Cartosat-2 by PSLV-C7 in January 2007 for its crew module, said P.S. Sastry, director of ISRO's Launch Vehicle Program.
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