India plans astronaut training centre by 2012

Bangalore
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An astronaut training centre larger than 40.5Ha (100 acres), on the outskirts of Bangalore, is to be completed by 2012 in preparation for India's proposed Rp12 billion ($242 million) 2015 manned spaceflight, the nation's first.

The centre will be set up by the Indian Space Research Organisation in collaboration with the Indian air force's Institute of Aviation Medicine, which is also located on the outskirts of Bangalore. Among the astronaut facilities planned are a centrifuge and spacecraft simulator.

ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair says that India's proposed human spaceflight programme will be a home-grown endeavour. "We do not have any proposal for co-operation with other countries. However, we are not averse to it," he says.

China's manned space programme was developed with help from the Russians. Nair added that Bangalore was the unanimous choice for the astronaut centre due to the presence of the Institute of Aviation Medicine and a local aerospace industry and that the astronaut training centre project would cost Rp10 billion.

As envisaged now, India's manned programme envisages the development of a fully autonomous orbital vehicle carrying two or three crew members to 400km (250 miles) low Earth orbit and their safe return.

Nair has not ruled out an Indian manned Moon mission. He has previously said that there would need to be a study of the technologies required and more recently stated that such a mission would only take place "if it was completely justified". Indian public opinion has become in favour of human spaceflight following China's three successful missions since 2003.