During the 50th anniversary celebrations on Wednesday night of the first human space flight by Yuri Gagarin which was organised by the Russian Science and Cultural Centre, the Russian deputy consul general, Alexey M.Mzareulov, announced that an Indian cosmonaut will fly on a Russian spacecraft in 2015.
He said that for this mission Isro and the Russian space agency will jointly build the spacecraft. He also said that India will redesign the Soyuz space capsule for this flight. ``If the mission is successful, India will become the fourth nation in the world after Russia, the US and China to send a manned mission into space,'' he told the large gathering at the Russian Science and Cultural centre, which included several American diplomats too.
He also said that India will launch its own manned space flight in 2017. The cost of this project is around Rs 13,000 crores.
These statement does make space freaks like BMM very happy, but Mzareulov is perhaps not aware that for the time being Isro has decided to shelve this project for a variety of reasons, the main one being the absence of a formal government approval. Immediately, after he made this announcement, ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' called a senior Isro official in Bangalore and read out Mzareulov's statement. The Isro official responded by saying that there was no immediate possibility of this project taking off.
``The GSLV programme is in a mess and Isro is in a crisis. So the chances of a manned mission are dim right now,'' he told BMM, his voice reflecting his disappointment and frustation at the way things are developing in Isro. The human space flight programme envisages the GSLV being used for the manned space flight which will take off from Sriharikota..
The official's statement could not have come at a more appropriate time, because today (April 15 2011) marks the first anniv of the failure of the first GSLV flight with an indigenous engine. Soon after the rocket plunged into the Bay of Bengal, Isro chairman, K.Radhakrishnan, gave a solemn assurance that within a year the next GSLV will lift off with a home-made engine.
A year has happened and nothing has happened. What is worse there is no indication either as to when it will take off.``The indigenous cryogenic engine project is also facing problems,'' he told BMM.
Under these circumstances where is the question of an Indian manned mission lifting off from Sriharikota in the near future? Right now the project seems a distant dream.
But, let us not dismiss Mzareulov's statement. Why? If the GSLV programme fails to progress satsifactorily, and by chance if there was pressure on the government to launch a manned mission due to technical and geo political factors, there is every possibility that India might seek Russia's help. Yes, it will be a replay of Rakesh Sharma's flight, but then it will provide an opportunity for India to declare proudly that it has put an vyomanaut into orbit. In a recent interview, Rakesh was shocked that still the rocket and spacecraft to be used for the manned mission by India have not yet been man-rated.
So one wonders what will be the thinking of the government regarding the manned space flight programme.
Will it be put in cold storage? or
Will it once again knock at Russia's doors?
Let us wait and watch