Rama Krishna Sangem
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious plan of sending three Indians into space this year – 75th Year of Independence – under project, Gaganyaan, is delayed by two years, by 2024. Modi announced this after unfurling tricolour from the ramparts of Red Fort on August 15, 2018, that three or four Indians – sons or daughters – will go to space in 2022 to mark the Amrit Mahotsav of Azadi.
If we can do this, sending humans into space, we will join a select club of countries – America, Russia and China – in the world, which have done this already. This will also inspire India to take up even more ambitious projects like Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan etc. Gaganyaan is a major step for ISRO to become a space powerhouse, competing with Russia’s Roscosmos or China’s CNSA.
Alas! this is not happening this year, due to Covid related delays. Going by the slow pace of activity at our ISRO, this Gaganyaan will happen only by middle of 2024. Even for that, ISRO will have to work round the clock and improve its efficiency. In spite of a slew of measures to tone up its functioning, ISRO still works like a government department and lags behind many of its schedules. But, this time Covid spoiled its plans.
Like all other institutions, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) too suffered a lot due to Covid induced lockdowns. Absence of men and machinery supplies have resulted in fewer testings and lab researches to know the efficacy of systems before sending three humans into space. Still our ISRO is doing its best to see that the project is launched in a perfect manner.
By now, four young pilots from Indian Air Force have been selected and sent for training in Russia. Rs 12,000 crore Gaganyaan will take this crew into space – into an altitude of 400 km above Earth – for seven days, before soft landing into Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal. In the space, they will conduct many operations and carry out the research, only humans can do.
Interesting part is that besides the public sector Hindustan Aeronautical Limited, close to 5,000 big and small public and private firms in our country are associated with this prestigious project. Two foreign countries – France and Russia – too are involved in it, plus support from American space agency – NASA. This is going to be a groundbreaking experience for our scientists and engineers.
The new ISRO chairman S Somanath, known for his business like approach has commenced testing boosters of Gaganyaan rocket motors two days ago. What gave them satisfaction is that systems are working well and things are fine till now. “We don’t want to take any kind of risk, as human lives are at stake. Safety is first and above keeping our dates,” he says, on the Gaganyaan mission. That’s right approach too.