India’s quest for a manned mission to the moon will have to wait a few more years as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has clarified that there are no such plans in the near future.
Last week, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed by ISRO with the Institute of Aerospace Medicine was widely reported as the precursor to the selection of astronauts for a manned moon mission. ISRO ruled this out and said that the MoU did not ‘envisage recruitment of crew for ISRO’.
“The MoU has been signed to carry out basic research/studies on human physiological and psychological requirements for human space flight crew and for augmenting/updating existing facilities at IAM to cater to ISRO’s human space flight program as a pre project research and development activity,” said an ISRO spokesperson in a statement.
The human space flight programme according to ISRO, is limited to sending a crew of two astronauts to a low earth orbit and returning them safely to a set destination on earth. ISRO, however, has set itself a target of 2017 for achieving this mission. As part of the prerequisites, the space agency will first have to prove that the Geo Synchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) platform can be used for the launch. The pre-project research is being carried out with `150 crore and the project is not even part of the 12th five-year plan that ends in 2017.
It may be noted that a manned mission to the moon was the pet project of former ISRO chief G Madhavan Nair who had repeatedly said ISRO would attempt putting an Indian on the moon by 2020. A manned mission to the moon was first announced by ISRO in 1999. In 2004, Madhavan Nair revived interest in the project and said ISRO would ‘rethink’ its plans.