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'Commercial space trips to be affordable in 20 years'


A file photo.

MUMBAI (PTI): Noted space entrepreneur Susmita Mohanty, founder of the country's first private space start-up Earth2Orbit, Monday said commercial space transportation would be an affordable reality in the next two decades.

The Ahmedabad-born Mohanty, who also co-founded two other companies -- MoonFront in San Francisco and Liquifier in Vienna -- also called for a commercial approach to the space missions saying, "our space transportation technologies are still primitive, flying dirty and polluting rockets to the space. One of the reasons for this is that across the globe it is being funded by tax-payers money. It is time we come out of the government cocoon and start working on our own."

"I am sure commercial space transportation will be an affordable reality in the next two decades and I also see the presence of humans on the moon in our own lifetime," Mohanty told reporters at the American Center here on Monday, where she will make a presentation on the final countdown of US Space programmes spanning the Atlantis, the Endeavor and the Discovery tomorrow, and will share her thoughts on human space exploration so far.

All these iconic space-shuttles will soon find their way into American museums and will be replaced by crew capsules - Dragon and MPCV. The talk will be a farewell to the much-loved shuttle fleet.

Calling for more enforceable space ecology norms, she said, there are about 3.5 million man-made objects in outer space now.

"Since the chances of these objects colliding each other and creating a chain reaction is one in 20 years, nobody is taking this possible tragedy seriously," she deplored and demanded more stringent laws that will force space-faring nations to bring back their spent machines to the earth or push them safely into the graveyard orbit.

Calling for commercialisation of space missions, Mohanty said that it was time to end the government-only approach to space missions and for private enterprises to enter the field.

The non-defence space industry, dominated by telecommunication spacecraft, is worth USD 160 billion annually, she said and called for more work on refueling of the spent stations/rockets so that a lot of waste can be avoided.

On her personal business side Mohanty said, her company would soon be entering manufacturing of space hardware.

Before turning entrepreneur, the 39-year-old Mohanty, who studied in India and Europe, worked in business development for the International Space Station programme at Boeing in California, on Shuttle-Mir missions at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, at the European space agency as well as at ISRO.

She is also a member of the International Academy of Astronautics and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Nominated for the MIT TR100 awards for the world's top 100 young innovators, Mohanty is the first space entrepreneur in the country and has designed futuristic systems for human habitation and transportation to the moon and space, prototypes for space shuttles and micro-gravity restraint systems.

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