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India's first manned space mission in 2015

A file pix of GSLV, which would be part of the manned mission

SRIHARIKOTA: Indian Space Research Organisation is awaiting a formal nod from the government for country’s first manned space mission in 2015, say officials even as they begin countdown towards India’s first unmanned lunar mission on October 22.

At the space center here on the eastern coast of India, the excitement is palpable ahead of the launch of Chandrayaan I, which ISRO says is aimed at unravelling many secrets of the moon.

Preparations are in full swing at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR), about 100 km from Chennai, and weather permitting India's first spacecraft mission beyond earth orbit is slated to be launched onboard India's workhorse rocket PSLV-C11 at 6.20 am on October 22.

Meanwhile, SHAR director MP Dathan said a project report on the human space flight is ready and is awaiting final approval from the government. For the proposed human space flight (manned mission) programme, Dathan said there would be a new launch pad--the third--at Sriharikota.

Dathan said the indigenously built geosynchronous launch vehicle would be upgraded to undertake this mission. According to ISRO officials, this human space flight is expected in 2015.

On criticism from some quarters about the need for a moon mission by India after several countries have undertaken similar ventures in the past, ISRO officials said though dozens of manned and unmanned spacecraft have explored the moon, all important aspects of the moon is not known fully to humans.

On the contrary, they said, "There are many secrets which the moon is yet to reveal. These concerns the origin and evolution of the moon, very detailed understanding of the mineralogy of the moon, abundance of Helium-3, said to be a relatively cleaner fuel for the future nuclear fusion reactor."

Chandrayaan-I spacecraft weighs 1,380 kgs and carries 11 payloads (scientific instruments). As preparations reached the final stage, the mood in Sriharikota on the east coast of India, some 100 km north of Chennai, is truly upbeat.

Deputy Director of SDSC SHAR, K Subhash said people are enthusiastic about the country's prestigious mission.

Dathan said, "The team (Chandrayaan-I team) is in a very excited mood".

The cost of Chandrayaan-I mission is Rs 386 crore, which includes Rs 100 crore for the establishment of the Indian Deep Space Network, which performs the important task of receiving the radio signals transmitted by Chandrayaan-I spacecraft that are incredibly feeble by the time they reach the earth.

One of the 11 payloads is the Moon Impact Probe (MIP); its primary objective is to demonstrate the technology required for landing a probe at the desired location on the moon. The MIP will be ejected from the Chandrayaan-I spacecraft to hit the lunar surface in a chosen area.

Following this, cameras and other scientific instruments are turned on and thoroughly tested. This leads to operational phase of the mission, which would last about two years, according to the officials. (PTI)

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