Moonstruck Modi wants lunar Indian crew by 2040

A space station, Venus, and Mars also on the cards but the budget is TBD

Flushed with robotic lunar success, India says it has plans to send a crew to the Moon by 2040.

The announcement comes after a meeting chaired by India's Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, to assess the progress of the Gaganyaan Mission – India's crewed spacecraft initiative – and outline what would come next.

Human-rated launch vehicles and systems require qualification, and approximately 20 major tests are planned, including three uncrewed missions of a Human Rated Launch Vehicle.

The first demonstration of the Crew Escape System Test Vehicle is planned for October 21, and engineers aim to launch in 2025.

However, following the success of missions such as the recent Chandrayaan-3, the prime minister expressed ambitions to further advance India's space goals and directed that the country should aim to set up its space station, dubbed Bharatiya Antariksha Station, by 2035 and send the first Indian to the Moon by 2040.

Before such goals can be achieved, India must demonstrate that it can repeat the recent robotic success as well as launch humans in its own spacecraft. It is also worth remembering that the predecessor of Chandrayaan-3 impacted the Moon thanks to a software glitch.

NASA insists it will land humans on the Moon by the end of 2025 and plans to send a crew into lunar orbit as part of the next Artemis mission. China's timeline for a crewed landing is set for before 2030.

Gaganyaan follows a traditional two-module design, comprising a crew module which can accommodate three astronauts and a service module to provide power and propulsion. It is already several years behind its original schedule.

At the time of writing, the Indian space agency ISRO has managed a re-entry test of a scaled-down boilerplate version of the crew module, a pad abort test, and tested the deployment of the drogue parachute. October 21 will be a high-altitude abort test.

Other calls from the prime minister included missions to Venus and a lander for Mars.

Conspicuously absent from the announcement by the Indian government were costings and a budget for the grand plans. As the saying goes, no Bucks, no Buck Rogers. Or, in this case, no Rupees, no Randeep Hooda. ®

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