India will allocate 100,000 crore (1,253 million euros) for its first manned mission to space, scheduled for 2022. The project plans to send three astronauts to orbit the Earth for a scientific mission and reinforces its ambition to make India a global power in the provision of low-cost services in space. "The Government has given the green light to the Human Space Flight Initiative," Minister of Information and Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad announced in the capital, New Delhi, on Friday. "We will send a crew of three members for seven days to space, we will try to complete a pilot initiative in the next 40 months," he added.
The Gaganyaan Project (spacecraft, in Hindi), presented last August by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the celebration of the independence day of the country, reinforces its ambition to make India a global power in the provision of low-cost services in the space. In 2014, the current Executive has already the first Indian satellite in orbit on Mars; making India the fourth nation to achieve it after the former USSR, the United States and Europe, and overtaking Japan and China; besides being the only one to do it in the first attempt and with the least investment. The Mars Orbit Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan, cost about 60 million euros; less than the Hollywood movie Gravity.
Last November, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) also launched into space a rocket carrying 31 satellites, many of them on behalf of foreign governments. For the announced manned mission, collaboration agreements have already been signed with the Russian space agencies Roscosmos and the French CNES. According to the local newspaper Times of India, ISRO has already begun the process of selecting the experiments that could be carried out in the low Earth orbit (Low Gravity Orbit or LEO, in English) where it will send the Indian astronauts selected by the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, dependent of the Indian Air Force .
The Indian space agency is considering carrying out at least ten experiments on the ship that will be sent some 400 kilometers from Earth. From the testing of medical equipment, to examinations related to microbiology such as tests with biological air filters and biosensors. Biomedical waste management studies are also planned for the control of toxic gases. "Since ISRO plans a human space flight, it is seeking the contribution of the national scientific community to carry out microgravity experiments in LEO," the Indian agency announced; which programs unmanned space launches in 2020 and 2021 test all its systems before the final flight with astronauts.
Today, the former president of ISRO, A. S. Kiran Kumar, pointed out the importance of investment in spatial technological performance and related hardware. "Having developed some technology, we need to make sure we do it in quantities [elevadas] to capture a portion of the global market available. That will give a great boost to the economic activity of the country ", he told the Indian news agency PTI who was the agency's leader for three years and responsible for the successful mission to Mars.
In addition to the impact that the ambitious project will have in the economic and development field, there are important military and security aspects for the regional power to focus on the space race. "For example, the anti-satellite test developed by China in 2007 has led to growing debate in India such as how it should develop its own dissuasive measures", he explained to Al-Jazeera English Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan; Head of the Initiative for Nuclear and Space Policy of the Foundation for Supervision and Research of Bombay.
The ambitious space exploration project places India, which began to invest in its space program in the decade of the 60s, among the select group of powers that have already done so, such as China itself as well as Russia, France, Japan and the USA; although still well below the budget allocated by the latter, of around 35,000 million euros. Despite India's success in its low-cost space race, many question its investment in the matter considering the poor socio-economic indices of the second country in the world with the most number of people living below the poverty line.