NEW DELHI: India's space agency is planning the nation's first manned space flight for 2016, if it gets government approval of the project budget, an official said Thursday.
The Indian Space Research Organization has sought 120 billion rupees ($2.6 billion) to put two astronauts in space for a week, spokesman S. Satish told AP.
The government has already provided a pre-project fund of about four billion rupees allowing the agency to do some initial research on the space flight, he said, adding that the ISRO is "hopeful" of getting the entire project approved soon so it can start making full-scale preparations.
Prior to the manned flight, India plans a second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, which will land a rover on the moon in 2013.
Chandrayaan-2 will consist of the spacecraft, a landing platform and the moon rover. Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) is working with the ISRO to develop the Chandrayaan-2 Lander and Rover.
The wheeled rover will roam the lunar surface and pick up samples of soil or rocks, do a chemical analysis and then relay the data to the spacecraft orbiting above.
The ISRO says the rover will run predominantly on solar power and weigh between 30 kg and 100 kg, depending on whether it is to do a semi-hard landing or a soft landing. It will have an operating lifespan of about a month.
India joins the space club
In October 2008, India launched its first lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, which means moon-traveler in Sanskrit, but had to abandon it nearly a year later when it lost contact with ISRO's ground station early in August 2009.
With Chandrayaan-1 India joined an elite club of countries. Similar satellites have been launched by the US, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China.
As India's economy has boomed in recent years, it has sought to convert its new-found wealth into political and military clout and stake a claim as a world leader.