Over the course of 6 Apollo missions, several American astronauts walked the face of the moon

BANGALORE: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which is working on sending humans to space by 2022 as part of the Gaganyaan project, plans to send astronauts to the International Space Station and, eventually, the Moon.

Gaganyaan has helped ISRO expand in a big way and mark the beginning of a long human spaceflight programme. Upbeat with the Centre recently approving Rs 10,000 crore for Gaganyaan, ISRO chairman K Sivan said the agency will use the money to develop technologies for the first human mission and start work on a larger program.

“Gaganyaan is the beginning, and we won’t stop there. We’ll continue the programme and send people to the (International) Space Station and the Moon,” Sivan said, adding the projects will run concurrently.

On Friday, Sivan named R Hutton as Gaganyaan project director, and senior space scientist Unnikrishnan Nair director of the human spaceflight centre, which will come up in Bangalore.

The chairman said they were yet to decide on the number of astronauts for the Gaganyaan mission.

Sivan called Gaganyaan the space agency’s “top priority” and said two unmanned test flights will precede the actual flight planned for December 2021, as reported by TOI. PM Modi has set 2022 as the target to send an Indian into space. Sivan said only initial training of likely astronauts will take place in India, while ISRO will need help from foreign agencies for advanced training.

ISRO chairman K Sivan said the Centre's financial assistance will help expedite their training programs. “The IAM (Institute of Aerospace Medicine) has facilities for selection and initial training,” he said. “For advanced training, we will have to look at, maybe, Russia. A decision will be made later. But we will use foreign agencies for advanced training.”

The human spaceflight centre, sources said, will also be responsible for setting up India’s future astronaut training facility, some 8-10 km from Kempegowda International Airport. Likely to be named Astronaut Training and Biomedical Engineering Centre, the facility will be developed on ISRO land in Devanahalli and is expected to resemble the one in Russia. The centre is likely to be spread across 40-50 acres. “While we have a lot of expertise on the engineering side (launching and payloads), the human side of sending astronauts to space will be a challenge and an opportunity,” Sivan said.

Sivan spoke of the need for a separate human-rated GSLV launch vehicle, among other pending things for Gaganyaan. India, according to IAM, is looking at a pool of 30 astronauts, from which the first batch will be picked for Gaganyaan.