Indian researchers have the major responsibility of developing future human resources of the country, and that has to be done by involving students at some stages of space missions, Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman (ISRO) K Sivan said at an event in Pune on Tuesday.
He was speaking at the 20th edition of the National Space Science Symposium (NSSS), jointly organised by the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), TIFR-National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) and ISRO.
At the beginning of 2019, the space agency launched ‘Samwaad with Students’, a unique programme to facilitate student interactions with space scientists. Last week saw the successful launch of the lightest satellite, KalamSat, built by a group of students from a Chennai.
Calling it the “right time” to increase student participation, the ISRO chairman said, “It is high time that children, especially young girls, be invited for national and international-level conferences and seminars, just to make them aware of all possibilities. This will help them make conscious career choices…. Otherwise, there will always be an oversupply of under-skilled engineers taking up IT jobs”
The space research agency chairman also had a serious word of advice for senior scientists and organisers of events, science symposia and conferences. “It will also be a good idea to make it mandatory for organisers to invite children and have special sessions for them. This will be a great opportunity for students to interact with researchers and academicians…,” said Sivan.
To expand its presence in other Indian cities, ISRO is setting up six incubation and research centres at select colleges and universities across the country. “Students can work at these centres and take help from industries in developing prototypes. ISRO will consider and review these projects and if they qualify, we will absorb the same. In this way, students can work for ISRO without joining the organisation. Inculcating scientific temper in younger generation will alone safeguard our future,” said Sivan.
When asked about Gaganyaan, India’s ambitious manned mission to space, the ISRO chairman said the team will soon start developing mission models. He said, “As part of the Gaganyaan programme, we have completed the design stage and the reviews should be completed within a fortnight. Now, we will soon take up… making a Gaganyaan model.”
While the space agency is yet to identify the astronauts who would be sent to space, the ISRO chairman said the agency would need to seek help from some other countries. The space agency also has elaborate human space explorations planned in tandem with robots, which will have sustained presence in space as well as nearby heavenly bodies in near future, said the secretary, Department of Space.
“ Along with ISRO, other agencies are also involved in identifying the right persons for the manned mission. Since we do not have all the facilities in India, we may need to go abroad to carry out some tests. Many countries have the facilities but we are yet to decide,” said Sivan.
Also present on the occasion was K Kasturirangan, senior adviser to ISRO, who highlighted the fact that universities needed to attract more students to research, given that India was participating in multiple international projects.
“Universities must develop a culture encouraging research and there is a serious need to strengthen research capabilities, given the large number of students who are studying at universities,” said Kasturirangan, who urged universities to tie up with research institutes and join hands for future missions.