India has been able to carry out unmanned spaced mission but lacks the full-fledged capabilities in manned space missions. With its indigenous technology India successfully launched Chandrayaan – I mission which revealed existence of water on the surface of the moon.
Similarly, MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) was successfully launched in its first attempt with low cost. These two are unmanned missions but India could not launch even a single manned mission. Recent failure of Vikram lander to make soft landing on moon reflects India’s inability to still land on moon and also a manned space mission.
Although some developments have taken place in terms of technology and logistics, India is still facing some hurdles in launching manned space missions.
Progress made w.r.t. manned mission:
- ISRO said carried out a major technology demonstration, the first in a series of tests to qualify a crew escape system, a critical technology relevant for human spaceflight.
- In 2014, experimental flight of GSLV Mk-III was successfully tested. It also had successfully tested experimental crew module, demonstrating re-entry capability.
- In 2017, first developmental flight of GSLV Mk-III was successfully conducted. In 2018, first successful flight of crew escape system was tested.
- ISRO has developed some critical technologies like re-entry mission capability, crew escape system, crew module configuration which was successfully launched with dummy payloads and brought it back to the Arabian sea etc., thermal protection system, deceleration and floatation system, sub-systems of life support system etc. required for this programme.
- Some of these technologies have been demonstrated successfully through the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-2007), Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE-2014) and Pad Abort Test (2018). These technologies will enable ISRO in accomplishing the programme objectives in a short span of 4 years.
- Environment Control and Life Support Systems are meant to make the crew capsule liveable and the flight safe for the astronauts.
- The Crew Escape System is an emergency escape measure designed to quickly pull the crew module along with the astronauts to a safe distance from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch abort. Mention experiment for emergency escape of astronauts called the Pad Abort Test which will be repeated at higher distances etc.
- India has a new dedicated control centre for HSP would be set up at ISTRAC etc.
Technological issues and challenges:
- ISRO is still long way away, despite advancements in some critical technologies in past decade. It is stilling building its capabilities and developing critical technologies required to send astronaut being into space.
- The required key technologies ISRO still has to develop for such mission. It includes ability to launch, recover and ensure earth-like conditions for astronauts. ISRO so far has successfully tested many of the technologies required for such a manned mission, but there are still others to be developed and tested.
- ISRO is planning to launch manned space programme by 2021-24. Towards this end, it has unveiled a prototype of its first crew capsule (4-metre-high module) designed to carry two people into low earth orbit.
- The third stage of cryogenic technology in GSLV is still not fully developed. GSLV Mark 3 will also be upgraded and tested to carry payloads up to 8 tonnes.
- India is also working on Space Capsule Recovery Experiment-2 (SRE-2) that will demonstrate critical technologies required for recoverable launch vehicles.
- India is depended mainly on single type of launch vehicle such as that of PSLV which hampers the capacity expansion of the programme.
- Since time is short, the ISRO won’t be able to establish an astronaut training facility for the current mission and instead will have to train its astronauts in a foreign centre.
- India does not have its own global navigation system.
- India got membership in MTCR (missile technology control regime) recently, without which other members of group don’t share their technology pertaining to space science and space missions. That was one of the reason why India is unable to get any sort of aid in upgrading their technology.
- Indian research laboratories, space related labs, industries are not in a position to manufacture the sophisticated equipment. Our industry is now starting manufacturing the pace vehicles so India is facing the problem of both technology and logistics for manned space missions.
- Funding and finance is essential to develop various equipment, technology and new tools required in the coordination of a manned space programme. But ISRO is still waiting for the government approval and funding for a human space flight programme.
Some scientists hold the view that private players have much more flexibility, freedom and risk taking abilities than the state owned agencies. Thus there should be more participation of private players in space programmes. India must realize that China launched its manned space mission to space in 2016 and will establish its permanent space station by 2022. Therefore India should also increase its footprints in manned space mission capabilities at the earliest.