India has inked agreements with Russia and France for the Gaganyaan mission.
The cabinet's approval for the much-awaited manned mission to space has paved the way for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to start selecting potential astronauts. The chosen ones will be called vyomnauts in a nod to vyom, the Sanskrit term for space, or Gagannauts.
ISRO chairman Dr K Sivan told NDTV that the Gaganyaan mission would prove to be a game-changer for the country. "This will be a challenging and exciting mission. We will send two unmanned missions into space before Gaganyaan's launch three years from now," he said. "Work on the mission is on in full swing, and all the targets will be met."
A three-member team will blast off into space for up to a week as part of the mission in 2022. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the Gaganyaan project in his Independence Day speech in August. The promise came closer to fruition today, when the cabinet approved a budget of Rs 9,700 crore for launching a spacecraft in a "low earth orbit for a mission duration ranging from one orbital period to a maximum of seven days".
India has inked agreements with Russia and France for the mission.
India has made great strides in space research in recent years. An orbiter launched to Mars in 2013 is still operational, and last year, a record 104 satellites were launched in a single blast-off. Early next year, it plans to launch the Chandrayaan-2, its second lunar exploration mission.
So far, the ISRO has spent Rs 173 crore to develop critical technologies for human space flight. Although the plan was first pitched in 2008, the ISRO eventually put it on the backburner over financial concerns. India tested its re-entry technology through the Satellite Recovery Experiment in 2007, sending a 550-kg satellite into orbit and then safely bringing it back to Earth.
(With inputs from agencies)