India's space agency has set up a two-member team to study the technologies needed to send a humanmission to the moon, people familiar with the development said.
This will be an extensionof its human spaceflight programme Gaganyaan.
The mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will need powerful rockets, as well as a capsule to carry human beings and return them safely back to earth.
The team is also expected to identify gaps in technologies that Isro will need to plug before undertaking such a mission.
“The team has been formed to look at a (human) mission to the moon,” said a space agency official who did not want to be named. It is too early to put a timeline for such a mission.
India’s plan to work on humanmoon mission comes at a time when there is revival of interest globally for a return landing of a human on earth’s satellite.
US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to return to the moon with a man-woman team in 2024.
Technology entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have also lined up plans for manned missions to the moon with SpaceX’s StarShip and Blue Origin’s Blue Moon spacecraft around the same time. China, too, has embarked on a human mission to the moon, which is expected sometime in the 2030s.
India’s mission,however, could take longer, said another person.
Isro usually plans its space programmes with a small team doing a feasibility study, publishing papers and then seeking grants from the government to do technology development.
Once the technologies that are strategic to the country are built and demonstrated, the space agency expands it into a programme team and works on a timeline to launch the mission. In most cases, a programme is announced only after government approval.
For example, Isro began preliminary work on its humanspaceflight programmein the late 1990s, which it expected to launch in eight years. But, only after the government approved the programme in 2018 did Isro move it to mission-mode to prepare to send a person to space using its own rocket and crew capsule by 2022. The space agency has identified four Indian Air Force pilots who will be sent to Russia to train as astronauts.
Isro plans to send a female humanoid —Vyommitra — into space, among the first of two unmanned missions, by December this year before launching an astronaut by August 2022.
Isro is seeking Russia’s help in training astronauts and life support systems, while it has built a three-member crew capsule that will be launched on its most powerful rocket — Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle- GSLV-MK III, Isro chairman K Sivan told ET in a recent interview.