India will launch its first manned mission in 2016 with two astronauts for a week-long odyssey in space, a top Indian space agency official said on Wednesday.
"We are planning a human space flight in 2016, with two astronauts who will spend seven days in the earth's lower orbit," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Radhakrishnan told reporters here.
Space scientists and senior officials of the state-run ISRO are preparing a pre-project report to build the infrastructure and facilities for the mission, estimated to cost a whopping Rs.124 billion ($2.76 billion).
The Planning Commission had in principle approved the human space flight project in February 2009. Its Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia then said more funds would be allocated in two phases during the Eleventh Plan (2007-12) and Twelfth Plan (2012-17).
"We will design and develop the space module for the manned mission in the next four years. Two astronauts will be selected to train for the space flight," Radhakrishnan said on the margins of a space event.
The government had allocated Rs.950 million (Rs.95 crore/$10 million) for pre-project initiatives in 2007-08.
The space agency will set up a full-fledged training facility in this tech hub for training the astronauts and building a third launch pad at its spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.
"Spacecraft for the proposed manned mission will have extra facilities like entry into crew capsule and an escape chute," the chairman said after releasing a book titled "Moon Mission: Exploring the Moon with Chandrayaan-1".
The book was authored by SK Das, former member (finance) of the space department.
To demonstrate its re-entry technology prowess, ISRO had launched in 2007 a 600 kg space capsule recovery experiment (SRE) using the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) rocket and was successful in bringing it back to the earth safely 12 days later.