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India’s Possible First Manned Mission – Are we ready yet? November 7, 2006

Posted by PagMax in manned flight, space.
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There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society.

As a kid, I was never too excited about this vision, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai has laid for space future of India.

TODAY, for the first time (as far as I can tell)   ISRO has (arguably) contradicted this idea and has officially spoken positively about FIRST INDIAN MANNED MISSION TO SPACE.
Though they did not speak much, I am  excited!! Indian going up there from Indian Soil…!!
(Remember only Indian so far who has been to space is Sqdrn Leader. Rakesh Sharma in 1984. But he piggybacked himself on a Russian (Then Soviet Union) spacecraft).

If this happens exactly the way we plan, pretty soon they would be looking for an Astronaut Candidate. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT..!!!
I wonder who that fortunate and brave person would be. I grew up all my life dreaming to be one. Although, its highly unlikely that this person would NOT be from Air-force.
Alan Shepered,  Yuri Gagarin, and Yang Liwei (First ones from USA, Russia and China) all had Flying background through either Air-force or Navy. Its certainly a plus if you want to be an astronaut anytime.

By IAF, (where I does not stand for Israel) I am too old to fly a air-force plane now and pretty soon I will be too old even to enter the force by any means.
Summarizing, its not going to ME.  (As if..!!)

So who is left now?
Well let us see.. lot depends on what time frame we are looking at..here is what ISRO has to say..

The preliminary estimated cost for the Manned Space Mission is Rs.10,000 crore spread over a period of 8 years.

8 years…, I say too optimistic. Lets make it 16. From past missions around the world, my guess is he (yes HE, as much as we respect the power and abilities of a woman, we are not sending a girl up there on our first mission), would be in his mid-late thirties during the launch. So my guess is this guy is now about 19-20. So friends! if you are in your late teens or early twenties, I will say send that application to IAF. (You have be less than 22 to be able to fly and I  already tried to change that age-limit, did not work. So do not waste your time on that).
I cannot intelligently comment on the number “Rs.10,000 crore” as cost estimate, but in a country like India, where more than 15 farmer kill themselves everyday because they do not have enough food, its not really going to be easy for everyone to appreciate that kind of budget. Now its certainly debatable. If we pull this off, we would make LOT LOT LOT of money directly or indirectly. What if we do not..!!

Are we really ready for this..?? Is this an investment well worth? Would the pride of possibly being 4th nation to send a man to space would resolve any of our existing problems? Ironically, growing up with lunar landing pictures on my bedroom walls and dreaming one day we would Indian flag up there, today I must say I am neutral on this one..!!

Just a note: I am a doctoral student in aerospace engineering and I try my best to keep myself updated with all the recent  and past developments in this field. So dont misinterpret my neutral stand as lack of my knowledge or lack of passion toward space development. If I get into that, it would be reeeally a long post and I just want to keep arguments on pros and cons only for comments. I am hoping to have some decent and informative discussion on both the aspects of this development.

Update: Hindustan Times claims, that ISRO has claimed to send an Indian to Moon by 2020. I did not see this declaration on ISRO’s website.  If it is true, thats a ridiculous claim.  NASA is planning to send a man up there by 2020! Do I need to say more why its a ridiculous claim…!!

UPDATE 2: Article on New Scientist Space on this topic. Various interesting viewpoints from experts around the world discussed.

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Comments»

1. planetsk - November 8, 2006

Parmanu, good topic to discuss..yeah, ISRO hadnt made any statement..but Manned Mission is being discussed at ISRO.

finally, I see some light in the indian space tunnel..atleast we (Indians) are making bold statements that make sense..8 years may be too optimistic and 16 yrs is too late..i think 10-12 yrs would be a reasonable time..given the “advanced” (not high) technology and recent India’s progress (may not be spectacular but ..)..I being pretty optimistic about India’s future in several other technological fields..space mission is not far away..

I think ISRO may depend to some extent on technology transfer from US and/or Russia to make this happen..It would be great to watch (in my lifetime) an Indian on World Wide TV. orbitting in space..

“Is this an investment well worth? Would the pride of possibly being 4th nation to send a man to space would resolve any of our existing problems?”
-Yes, it is well worth..but will not resolve our existing problems..given that one-third of Indian population is around age15-16 (read in some article @Forbes),increasing literacy rate and employment..future looks bright..a space mission like this needs tremendous research facilities that include every aspect of engineering and medical science..young generation might be benefited from this but not dying farmers..yeah it’s debatable..IMO,in a country with over a billion pop..hmm..space mission is HUGE. there are yeah’s and but’s to it..I say go for it..

2. Cotton - November 8, 2006

“From past missions around the world, my guess is he (yes HE, as much as we respect the power and abilities of a woman, we are not sending a girl up there on our first mission)”

OH NICE!!!! I should ask all the girls to read your blog. (That is, if any girl reads it :P)

And it’s interesting that you even had a fleeting thought about yourself being in this position. Now that’s what’s called being truly optimistic!

On a serious note, I didn’t know that it will cost more than Rs. 10,000 crore to finance this whole thing. And we must not forget that, even if it does get done within 8 years(which is impossible), the inflation rate in India is pretty high. The “official” inflation rate is about 8%, but I suspect it to be about 15%. So, you can only imagine the amount of money that will go into this thing.

This reminds me of the time when the telecommunications minister was promoting the use of cell phones in India when most of the people don’t even have a land line. Plus, not to forget, Reliance “paid their tributes” to him to try to monopolize the industry. They did succeed to some extent.

I think that I can draw a parallel between this space mission and the above case. Yes, “spending” money on important scientific developments sure puts India in a better position as compared to the other nations than tackling the underlying root of all causes: poverty. Brilliant!

3. Cotton - November 8, 2006

“OH NICE!!!! I should ask all the girls to read your blog. (That is, if any girl reads it :P)”

I mean, other than me, ofcourse. Considering how well they’ve been portrayed in this post, I think I’m going to recommend it to all my girl friends.

4. shrav - November 8, 2006

Useless fellows. They can use the money setup a modern University along the lines of the UA instead, can’t they?

5. Parmanu - November 8, 2006

@planetsk,
“..ISRO hadnt made any statement…”
They did. I have link up there. They didnt make a statement on Man on Moon mission. I wonder where Hindustantimes got that from.

“..I think ISRO may depend to some extent on technology transfer from US and/or Russia to make this happen..”
On GREAT extent.

“….I say go for it.. ”
Good Call!

@Cotton
“.. I think I’m going to recommend it to all my girl friends. ..”
Please do. I can use some ‘girl friends’. Remind them about picture Ids and phone numbers.

“.. Considering how well they’ve been portrayed in this post, ..”
How do u mean? I did not make any statement or remotely hinted at ability or superiority of any gender. I just noted a fact. First person is NOT going to be a woman. period. Look at some historical firsts around the world, social structure of India and Government regulation on armed forces jobs in India and then tell me if you disagree with what I said.

Btw, you make a good argument on inflation rate and projected spendings. Its going to cost lot more than that. Its easier to see if u convert in dollars. Its about 2 billion USD. NASA would start outsourcing their space missions to India if that number were true!!

“..underlying root of all causes: poverty”
Population. According to me.

@shrav,
“..They can use the money setup a modern University along the lines of the UA instead, can’t they? ..”
Common be serious. We have a serious discussion going on here which you need to appreciate. I mean what good UA can possibly do when they have perfectly better options like NCSU or Tufts.

6. planetsk - November 8, 2006

“..NASA would start outsourcing their space missions to India if that number were true!!”
-Hahahaha….Rocket Made in China and Software developed by India.

“..underlying root of all causes: poverty”
-Population->Poverty->Corruption->CHAOS

“I mean what good UA can possibly do when they have perfectly better options like NCSU or Tufts”

-Take your school stuff to somewhere else…may be to space
🙂

Watch this:
http://video.google.pl/videoplay?docid=-5417019303200331106

7. planetsk - November 8, 2006

“NASA would start outsourcing their space missions to India if that number were true!!”
-Hahahaaha..Rocket manufactured in China and software developed by India.

“..underlying root of all causes: poverty”
-Population->Poverty->Corruption->CHAOS

“I mean what good UA can possibly do when they have perfectly better options like NCSU or Tufts.”

-Take your school stuff to somewhere else..may be to space
🙂

Watch this:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5417019303200331106

8. shrav - November 8, 2006

“..It would be great to watch (in my lifetime) an Indian on World Wide TV. orbitting in space”
Yes, I second that. Not one, though, but several. I will try to make a list of Indians who should be thrown into space. You can suggest names, too, if you want to.
On a more serious note, I agree with cotton on this one. I really don’t think it’s worth spending so much money on this mission.
****Way off-topic****
Vista RTMed today. Office RTMed two days ago. Live Local 3d was released a couple of days back. Call of Duty 3 was released for XBox a couple of days back. It was also announced that HD movies and TV shows would be made available on XBox Live. Zune will be released in a week. The stock price has touched $29. Is Microsoft on a roll? This is a summary of torres’s post. (Mike Torres is a Microsoft employee, by the way.)

9. Cotton - November 8, 2006

The underlying root cause IS infact poverty. It is poverty that gives rise to population and not vice versa. This is the fundamental vicious cycle that you study about in your macroeconomics course.

Poverty–illeteracy–population–poverty——— goes on!

With the democrats marching in, I am not too sure about the outsourcing scene anymore! Plus, it is predicted that outsourcing will vanish by 2015. I will not go into too much of details here because it is not relevant to the post! (I take pains in staying on topic, btw)

“How do u mean? I did not make any statement or remotely hinted at ability or superiority of any gender. I just noted a fact. First person is NOT going to be a woman. period.”

Ohh niiicee!! These things are to be understood and to be kept in your mind and not to be spoken aloud! I will sue you for sexual discrimination! d”ohhh!

” can use some ‘girl friends’. Remind them about picture Ids and phone numbers. ”

I thought many girls already roam around with your pictures in their pockets and get amused! (sounds familiar?!)

10. sk - November 8, 2006

“I will sue you for sexual discrimination! d’’ohhh!”
Well, he was simply commenting on the sad state of affairs in India. Why does that constitute sexual harrassment discrimination? *Starts to ponder*
“I take pains in staying on topic, btw.”
🙂 I agree my comment was anything but “on-topic”. In fact, it had absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this post. I do apologize for that. I’ve stricken off the second part of the comment.

11. Parmanu - November 8, 2006

“. It is poverty that gives rise to population and not vice versa. ”
My understanding is if it is cycle, any point within the cycle could be a root cause. And I can surely argue that it is population, which gives rise to poverty. Anyway, we both agree we have poverty issue here.
“..With the democrats marching in, I am not too sure about the outsourcing scene anymore..”
If it makes economical sense, it will survive. Few dems might be against it but if they do enter the white house, they will have to rethink their stand again.
@shrav, thanks for backing me up. Although she meant discrimination not harrasment…, but I think she would go there pretty soon….!
@cotton, ”
“..Ohh niiicee!! These things are to be understood and to be kept in your mind and not to be spoken aloud! I will sue you for sexual discrimination! d’’ohhh!..”
So u wud sue me for sexual discrimination in my mind…!! ..phew..women..!
btw, I have updated the post with a link to article on this topic and has some quotes from experts around the world on this development.
I am reading here and there about ISRO’s plan for manned moon mission by 2020…(still nothing from any reliable source)
@planetsk,
That google video link doesnt work. ..what is it?, Now it does..!

12. sk - November 8, 2006

” Although she meant discrimination not harrasment…”

Thanks for pointing it out. 🙂 That amounted to putting words into cotton’s mouth. Bad! I’ve corrected it.

Actually, do you have any figures that show how profitable the Indian Space program is (or even what the contributions of the program have been)? Also, considering the number of failed satellite launches, how many people would actually want to sit inside an Indian space shuttle? I don’t know if there’s even a relation between the two, but considering that this time, the shuttle has to not oonly go out of space, but to return too. Also, NASA, with a lot more money is having trouble ensuring the safe return of its astronauts. Wouldn’t it be even more difficult for ISRO?

Coming to my list, here’s the first name: Aishwarya Rai.

13. Parmanu - November 8, 2006

“..Actually, do you have any figures that show how profitable the Indian Space program is (or even what the contributions of the program have been)?…”
I do not. Just because ISRO is not good with sharing\updating information. But I know ISRO is fairly succesful organization and has done quite well considering the financial constraints it was in. No other goverment sector might have performed that well. Because there are some GOOD people working there.

“..Also, considering the number of failed satellite launches, how many people would actually want to sit inside an Indian space shuttle? I don’t know if there’s even a relation between the two..”

There is. The GSLV that crashed few months back would probably the carrier for manned mission. About the failures, its not really that bad compared to any space program or any big project. Its just that space failures are remembered more than anything else. Space Travel is still safer than travelling by car on interstate..!!

However, you r right. Spacecraft has to come back and we all learned from coulmbia how dangerous reentry could get. ISRO has no experience on that aspect, and thats why I think 8 or even 12 years is rather optimistic. 15-20 could be a fair number. (Thats only to go say 300 KM above earth, Moon 380,000 km is a different game!)
But the fact is people are going to die no matter what. Apollo 1 (the very first shot at moon mission) ended up killing 3 best guys at that time and that too just in practice session. Russian’s first attempt to space killed their best pilot. If they would have stopped at that time, things would have been different.
China has been lucky so far to send 3 people up there without any major issues but these accidents cannot be avoided.

Would people want to sit in this attempt and risk their lives. Sure!
Its a dream well worth risking a life and I am sure young blood in India would agree with me.

“..Also, NASA, with a lot more money is having trouble ensuring the safe return of its astronauts. Wouldn’t it be even more difficult for ISRO?..”
Well after Columbia, Nasa has sent and returned some 18 people from the orbit. So I wont really say they are having a difficult time.
Although, there is no doubt, it would be lot difficult for India. financial constraints, less aerospace schools, less infrastructure and then unstable politics. Today manmohan singh approved of it. Would next govt. let them continue..?? Dont know…!

14. sk - November 9, 2006

” If we pull this off, we would make LOT LOT LOT of money directly or indirectly.”
“Would people want to sit in this attempt and risk their lives. Sure!
Its a dream well worth risking a life and I am sure young blood in India would agree with me.”

By the way, by money, don’t you mean people like this Ansari female? Will such rich people have faith in Indian spaceships?

Coming to my list: Aishwarya Rai, Anu Malik, the entire Indian cricket team, Steve Jobs (I know), Donald Rumsfeld…

15. sk - November 9, 2006

Oh, and for those of you who’re wondering why I keep changing my display name, there was a small problem with my previous display name. I’ll go back to that in a few days.

16. planetsk - November 9, 2006

“Today manmohan singh approved of it. Would next govt. let them continue..?? Dont know…! ”
-Thats where problems come from..change in the govt. I’ve been following news in our very own state (back in India)..how things can change with a new govt. Space Mission with over 10,000 crores !! and 10-15yrs time frame..dramatic changes are possible..will this mission go through some kinda voting in the Parliament??

“I will sue you for sexual discrimination! d’’ohhh!..”
” Although she meant discrimination not harrasment…”
-Let’s talk money..how much will Cotton sue for..we are on a space mission 🙂

“Coming to my list: Aishwarya Rai, Anu Malik, the entire Indian cricket team, Steve Jobs (I know), Donald Rumsfeld… ”
-Indian Cricket Team except Dravid, G.W.Bush (drop him off in mid-air), Saddam Hussein..send him and leave him in space or may be moon instead of hanging….to be contd.

17. parmanu - November 9, 2006

“..By the way, by money, don’t you mean people like this Ansari female?..”
Not at all. Tourism can never be the motivation at the stage we are at.
By money I mean, worldwide confidence, which would mean more investments not only in space science, but in everything. People will start respecting you. And of course, we could provide support for other countries for their satellite missions. (Which we already do through ANTRIKSH, ISRO’s commercial face).

“.. Will such rich people have faith in Indian spaceships? ..”
As I told before, Indian satellites have not been that bad. We have done a quite good job as a space program. Percentage of failure wasnt ridiculously high. The magnitude was high and hence we tend to think “indian spaceships” are not that good.
Now we dont know abt manned mission thoigh. If we do demonstrate the ability of sending and returning men and women from orbit, yes people would have faith. But as I said, i dont see it likely that isro would open to tourists anytime soon even after we pull this one off.

“..will this mission go through some kinda voting in the Parliament??..”
Not unless someone objects it. Problem is I think politicians do not even know how big this is or how is this different from past. General space education is fairly lacking in india.

“..Let’s talk money..how much will Cotton sue for..we are on a space mission ..”
Yup, now we are talking…!!

“..-Indian Cricket Team except Dravid, G.W.Bush (drop him off in mid-air), Saddam Hussein..send him and leave him in space or may be moon instead of hanging….to be contd. ..”

Now u guys are deeply offending me. U r almost using space as some garbage disposal. (Not that i think that list amounts to garbage…its just the tone which is making me feel that way). If all you want is that these people be sent somewhere where they repent they ever went there..send them to missouri.

18. Cotton - November 9, 2006

Parmanu,

“Now u guys are deeply offending me. U r almost using space as some garbage disposal. (Not that i think that list amounts to garbage…its just the tone which is making me feel that way). If all you want is that these people be sent somewhere where they repent they ever went there..send them to missouri.”

since some of the garbage is already there, why not send the rest there too!!

19. Cotton - November 9, 2006

ofcourse..i meant NCSU (if you are still in doubt!!)

20. sk - November 9, 2006

Actually, no. I’d still like to see our garbage disposed in space. I’d love to see the Indian cricket team being sent off on our first mission to space. If the mission is successful, they’ll be back to lose some more matches. If not, we don’t really lose anything. There are several others who can lose just as badly.


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