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COVID-19 won’t deter India’s first human space mission ‘Gaganyaan’: Union Minister

Union Minister of State (MoS) for the Department of Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh, on Monday, said that the launch of India’s first human space mission “Gaganyaan” will not be affected by the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and preparations are being carried on in the right direction.

Briefing about the important achievements of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Department of Space over the last year and some of the important missions planned for the future, Dr Jitendra Singh said that even though the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the training of four Indian astronauts in Russia to be halted, the opinion of the ISRO chairman and the scientific team is that there had been kept a “cushion” both in the training programme and the launch deadline.

The training of astronauts has now been resumed and the launch is scheduled to take place as planned, before the 75th anniversary of India’s independence in 2022, the minister said.

Elaborating on the cabinet decision to encourage private participation in ISRO activities, the minister said that a regulatory body called the “Indian National Space Promotion & Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe)” is to be established.

This will help provide a level playing field to private players and encourage their participation, he said.

He further said that besides enhancing the capacity and resources of our space missions, increased participation of private players will also discourage the brain drain of talented space scientists and experts who were otherwise moving out of India in search of a break.

About the Chandrayaan-III Lunar mission, Dr Jitendra Singh said that according to current estimations, it is planned for launch next year. The moon mission will involve a lander, rover and a propulsion system to carry the modules to move but it would not have orbiter as the previous orbiter is fully operational, he added.

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the ‘Gaganyaan’ mission to send astronauts into space will be a historic achievement for India in 21st Century. 

In his first ‘Mann Ki Baat’ of 2020, Modi said, “In 2022, we will be celebrating 75 years of Independence. And on that occasion, we have to fulfil the pledge to take an Indian into space through the Gaganyaan mission.”

“Gaganyaan mission will be a historic achievement in the field of science and technology for India in the 21st century. It will prove to be a milestone for New India,” the Prime Minister had said. 

Modi also praised the four pilots of the Indian Air Force who have been selected as astronauts for the mission and their forthcoming training in Russia.

“These promising youngsters symbolise India’s skill, talent, ability, courage and dreams. Our four friends are about to go to Russia in a few days for their training. I am confident that this would script another golden chapter in India-Russia friendship and cooperation,” he said. 

The Prime Minister had said that after their training for over a year, they would shoulder the responsibility of carrying the hopes and aspirations of the nation and soaring into space.