MUMBAI: Gujarat may have the honour of welcoming back the Gaganyaan astronauts when they return after their seven-day mission in space.

Nilesh Desai, director of ISRO’s Ahmedabad-based Space Application Centre (SAC), said this at a presentation on Saturday organized by Space Geeks Mumbai and other organisations.

"As of now, the mission is expected to splashdown off Veraval in Gujarat in the Arabian Sea, and as a contingency measure even a zone in the Bay of Bengal is being considered. The exact place will be finalized soon,’’ he said in the webinar.

The crew will be recovered in 15 to 20 minutes and, thereafter, they will be placed under quarantine. "Only after they complete their quarantine period and get back to work, can we declare the mission over,’’ he said.

Veraval is known as a hub of fishing industries in India and is 6km away from the famous Somnath temple.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had underscored the importance of the Gaganyaan mission for the nation in her Budget speech on February 1.

The unmanned test mission of Gaganyaan is slated, provisionally, towards the end of the year, and the manned flight next year. The much-awaited lift off will be from Sriharikota.

The program suffered a slight set back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Desai said the size of the crew module has been slightly reduced because of the weight constraints on the GSLV MK-III rocket.

With a crew of either two or three, who underwent training in Russia, the flight will operate in the 275-400 km low-earth orbit, passing over India two times in the morning and two times in the evening.

Throughout the weeklong mission, ISRO’s Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka and the Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network at Bangalore will be communicating with the crew, in addition to different channels of communication through satellites.

With considerable emphasis on safety of the crew, ISRO is human rating all the sub systems in the orbiter module in which the crew will fly, as well as the launch vehicle and the launch pad.

Desai also announced that the mission span of the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter has been extended to 7.5 years because of excellent fuel management.

"The extended life will give an opportunity for lunar mapping and the science payloads will generate new knowledge about the moon,’’ he said.