The Gaganyaan Mission is India’s first manned space mission. Under it, India is planning to send three humans (Gaganyatris) into space by 2022 by 75th Independence Day for period of five to seven days. The mission was announced by the Prime Minister of India during his 72nd Independence Day speech.
Under this mission, a crew of three astronauts will conduct experiments on microgravity in space. The crew will be selected jointly by Indian Air Force (IAF) and ISRO after which they will undergo a training for two-to-three years. This mission will make India fourth nation in the world after USA, Russia and China to launch human spaceflight mission.\
The development of ballistic missiles, first used by Germany toward the end of World War II, paved the way for the launch vehicles that would fuel a space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. The space race was then followed by an era of space cooperation, highlighted by the International Space Station.
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into space. Four years later on April 12, 1961, Russian Lt. Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth in Vostok 1. His flight lasted 108 minutes, and Gagarin reached an altitude of 327 kilometers (about 202 miles).
The first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, went into orbit on Jan. 31, 1958. In 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to fly into space. On Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn’s historic flight made him the first American to orbit Earth.
“Landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth within a decade” was a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong took “one giant leap for mankind” as he stepped onto the moon. Six Apollo missions were made to explore the moon between 1969 and 1972.
During the 1960s, unmanned spacecraft photographed and probed the moon before astronauts ever landed. By the early 1970s, orbiting communications and navigation satellites were in everyday use, and the Mariner spacecraft was orbiting and mapping the surface of Mars. By the end of the decade, the Voyager spacecraft had sent back detailed images of Jupiter and Saturn, their rings, and their moons.
Skylab, America’s first space station was a human-spaceflight highlight of the 1970s, as was the Apollo Soyuz Test Project, the world’s first internationally crewed (American and Russian) space mission.
In the 1980s, satellite communications expanded to carry television programs, and people were able to pick up the satellite signals on their home dish antennas. Satellites discovered an ozone hole over Antarctica, pinpointed forest fires, and gave us photographs of the nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. Astronomical satellites found new stars and gave us a new view of the center of our galaxy.
In April 1981, the launch of the space shuttle Columbia ushered in a period of reliance on the reusable shuttle for most civilian and military space missions. Twenty-four successful shuttle launches fulfilled many scientific and military requirements until Jan. 28, 1986, when just 73 seconds after liftoff, the space shuttle Challenger exploded. The crew of seven was killed, including Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire who would have been the first civilian in space.
The Columbia disaster was the second shuttle tragedy. On Feb. 1, 2003, the shuttle broke apart while reentering the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members. The disaster occurred over Texas, and only minutes before it was scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center.
An investigation determined the catastrophe was caused by a piece of foam insulation that broke off the shuttle’s propellant tank and damaged the edge of the shuttle’s left wing. It was the second loss of a shuttle in 113 shuttle flights. After each of the disasters, space shuttle flight operations were suspended for more than two years.
Discovery was the first of the three active space shuttles to be retired, completing its final mission on March 9, 2011; Endeavour did so on June 1. The final shuttle mission was completed with the landing of Atlantis on July 21, 2011, closing the 30-year space shuttle program.
The Gulf War proved the value of satellites in modern conflicts. During this war, allied forces were able to use their control of the “high ground” of space to achieve a decisive advantage. Satellites were used to provide information on enemy troop formations and movements, early warning of enemy missile attacks, and precise navigation in the featureless desert terrain. The advantages of satellites allowed the coalition forces to quickly bring the war to a conclusion, saving many lives.
Space systems continue to become more and more integral to homeland defense, weather surveillance, communication, navigation, imaging, and remote sensing for chemicals, fires, and other disasters.
The International Space Station is a research laboratory in low Earth orbit. With many different partners contributing to its design and construction, this high-flying laboratory has become a symbol of cooperation in space exploration, with former competitors now working together.
The station has been continuously occupied since the arrival of Expedition 1 in November of 2000. The station is serviced by a variety of visiting spacecraft: the Russian Soyuz and Progress; the American Dragon and Cygnus; the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle; and formerly the Space Shuttle and the European Automated Transfer Vehicle. It has been visited by astronauts, cosmonauts, and space tourists from 17 different nations.
Space launch systems have been designed to reduce costs and improve dependability, safety, and reliability. Most U.S. military and scientific satellites are launched into orbit by a family of expendable launch vehicles designed for a variety of missions. Other nations have their own launch systems, and there is strong competition in the commercial launch market to develop the next generation of launch systems.
Modern space exploration is reaching areas once only dreamed about. Mars is focal point of modern space exploration, and manned Mars exploration is a long-term goal of the United States. NASA is on a journey to Mars, with a goal of sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s.
NASA and its partners have sent orbiters, landers, and rovers, increasing our knowledge about the planet. The Curiosity Rover has gathered radiation data to protect astronauts, and the MARS 2020 Rover will study the availability of oxygen and other Martian resources.
Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second lunar exploration mission after Chandrayaan-1. Developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation, the mission is planned to be launched to the Moon by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III. It includes a lunar orbiter, lander and rover, all developed by India. Its expected launch date is 3rd January, 2019.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is setting up third launch pad at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh to undertake the Gaganyaan (Manned space flight) programme. ISRO currently has two launch pads which are already full. Third launch pad is being set up for the human space flight. It will be ready in time for the mission. In addition, ISRO is scouting for location on western sea coast near Gujarat to set up another launch pad for Small Satellite Launch Vehicles (SSLV). ISRO is developing SSLV to offer affordable launch options for smaller satellites through ANTRIX, the space agency’s commercial arm. The SSLV is expected to reduce launch time as well as cost less to launch small satellites, which are much in demand. ISRO currently piggybacks smaller satellites on Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle abbreviated (GSLV) along with bigger satellites.
Enhance of science and technology levels in the country, serve as national project involving several institutes, academia and industry, improve of industrial growth, inspire youth, develop technology for social benefits and improve international collaboration.
ISRO may have undertaken a number of space programmes with great success rate, but sending a human being to space is a different ball game altogether. It is far more complicated than even Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan.
A manned space mission is very different from all other missions that ISRO has so far completed. For a manned mission, the key distinguishing capabilities that ISRO has to develop include the ability to bring the spacecraft back to Earth after the flight, and to build a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space.
All the missions so far, including the Mars and the Moon missions, did not involve bringing back the spacecraft into earth’s atmosphere. Here, not does the module needs to be brought; it has to be brought back safely as there would be humans in it.
Other than these, ISRO also cannot rely on its workhorse PSLV. PSLV can carry payloads upto 2 tonnes, but a spacecraft carrying human beings is likely to weigh in excess of 5 to 6 tonnes. For this, ISRO has developed GSLV Mk-III which is a launch vehicle capable of carrying heavier payloads much further into the space. There are a number of new technologies that ISRO has to develop to successfully carry out Gaganyaan. In fact, ISRO has been testing these technologies quietly without making noise. Our focus here is to discuss two extremely important technologies that are important to any mission which involves sending humans into space.
Reentry and recovery technology:
All the ISRO missions so far involved sending satellites/orbiters out of the earth’s atmosphere. But, when humans are being sent to space, then they have to be brought back, and that is a big technological challenge. When a spacecraft re-enters earth’s atmosphere, it would have to withstand high temperatures, thousands of degrees, due to friction with the air. Even when a meteorite enters the earth, the earth’s gravity speeds up its descent and this causes friction with the air. This friction increases the temperature so much that most of the meteorites just vapourise before reaching the earth’s surface. This is the reason we see shooting stars.
The spacecraft’s re-entry into the atmosphere also has to be very precise both in terms of speed and angle, and even the slightest deviation could end in disaster. For this, a heat shield that can withstand thousands of degrees needs to be developed. After, re-entry, the spacecraft would land at a precise spot in the sea from where Navy or Coast Guard would bring it back to the mainland. So that is why speed and angle are important, the re-entry vehicle has to return in a pre-planned path in an accurate manner. The good news is that ISRO has already tested this technology, but many more tests are needed.
Launch escape system or Crew Escape Mechanism:
If something goes wrong at any point during the launch, then there has to be way for the crew to escape so that lives can be saved. The mechanism ensures the crew module gets an advance warning of anything going wrong with the rocket, and pulls it away to a safe distance, after which it can be landed either on sea or on land with the help of attached parachutes. The system is typically controlled by a combination of automatic rocket failure detection, and a manual backup for the crew commander’s use. Even this has been tested by ISRO, but is not perfect yet. India would also need a Deep Space Network to track the module 24*7 as it orbits the earth. There is increasing threat of Space debris in the low earth orbits which can result in depressurization of the cabin of the crew module in case of collision with small debris.
India already has an agreement with Russia for cooperation in manned space missions. Key areas of cooperation for ISRO’s Mission 2022 will include Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), mission control systems and the possible use of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City outside Moscow. While formal agreements are not yet in place, ISRO will collaborate with the Indian Air Force and its Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bengaluru, to train astronauts. Various defence labs will be tapped for crew support systems.
ISRO began concept studies for its Human Space Programs back in 2006 with a study and presentation to a national group of scientists. Soon after, in 2008, ISRO estimated the HSP programme would cost them Rs 12,400 crore, though, these costs are substantially reworked now. Development of the HSP technologies ran parallel to other ISRO programmes like Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan.
Both the crew escape system and the environment control of life support system are critical to ensure the safety of our astronauts.
It is important to overcome the technological challenges to ensure a safe, successful manned space mission. International collaboration in this domain can help India ensure a robust technology for its HSF programme. If things proceed as per plan then on seventh day, the crew module would re-orient and separate itself from the service module. It would land on earth within 36 minutes, in the Arabian Sea, close to Ahmedabad. The mission would generate jobs for 15,000 people, of whom 13,000 would be from industries and a thousand from academic institutes. Above all it will enhance National prestige and will fill the heart of every patriot with pride.