Is the human space flight a symbolic national event for India or is there a science objective to this mission?
The direct benefit is the microgravity experiments. We will be carrying out a lot of experiments, some of them in the fields of medicine and agriculture, which will be different in a micro-gravity environment. These will give us a lot of inputs. It will change the whole medical field, everything will change, it will tell us how to create plants and fruits in the shortest time. We need a microgravity environment for long duration and that we can do probably once a satellite is in orbit.
Is this a one-off human space flight mission or are there going to be more in the future? What is the vision?
This is only the first phase. After that maybe we will enhance it to more number of durations. We will create a small space habitat, with that we can stay there (space) for 30-40 days. From that, we can enhance and create a space station from which we can access the moon and other places.
While other space missions are sending unmanned missions to space, we are looking at sending humans.
Humanoids cannot do the entire job because in some places the decision-making process can be carried out by humans alone. It is not just the case of doing physical work, if that is the case then robots can easily do it. In a robot, everything is defined with a particular set of parameters. Suppose some accident is happening, in real time some actions will be taken. If we are able to reproduce exactly a human brain then it is a possibility but still, it is not there.
ISRO has so far been focused on missions that have societal implications. Are we looking at a shift towards space exploration from a scientific perspective?
Our fundamental requirement and need of space projects is for the benefit of the common man. That is not going to change. But we need to go to the next step. We have grown, we have now reached the level where we have completed our activity, now next step is a human space programme, where the presence of humans is going to be important in many aspects. Every country, not just government agencies but even private agencies are moving towards the presence of humans in space. Now we are talking about habitation in the moon, and Mars, these are all going to happen after some time and at the time we should not be blinking, now we have to put down fundamentals so we know how to adapt to conditions.
What is the next big technological leap for ISRO?
Gaganyaan is a huge technological leap. All along we have been working on satellites, launch vehicle and so on. When you are bringing an equipment based programme, there is a lot of life sciences part which comes into the picture for which we need technology to be developed.
Is this because we are responding to an earth that is undergoing tangible changes? As a space scientist do you notice changes in climate?
Definitely, the world what we are seeing today was not the world which was there 100 years ago. One area which is seeing a renowned interest is heliophysics. Why is that the case? Whatever predictions we had done over the last 300-400 years about the sun, those predictions are proving to be wrong. We are noticing unexpected behaviour of the sun, and these changes will have a direct impact on climate change. This is at the same time our natural resources are getting depleted and our protected mechanism are being disturbed by so many issues like pollution. The net effect is going to mean the earth is not going to be conducive for human habitation.
Can you comment on the ecosystem that is required for space technologies to take off in India? You mentioned electronics being a huge lacunae?
It is nothing to do with even space science or Gaganyaan or anything. It is a general assessment in India, one lacunae is the electronics import. This is very important for everything.