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India’s PM Modi Announces First Manned Space Mission By 2022 In Re-Election Bid

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses in the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on 1 June 2018. Photograph courtesy of IISS.

Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi announced on 15 August 2018 – India’s Independence Day – that India will launch its first manned space mission by 2022. The announcement was made by Modi in what is his last Independence Day speech ahead of the general election to be held in early 2019.

“India will send into space — a man or a woman — by 2022, before that if possible,” Modi said.

Modi used the speech to promote his government’s achievements, amid concerns about a lack of jobs and rising violence against India’s Muslim minority, according to Reuters.

A renowned orator, the leader of India’s Hindu nationalist party – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – said that the country’s first manned space mission will take the “Indian tricolour to space,” making India the fourth country to indigenously launch its own astronauts into space, following the United States, Russia, and China.

“India is proud of our scientists, who are excelling in their research and are at the forefront of innovation,” Modi said in his speech delivered from the ramparts of the Mughal-era Red Fort in New Delhi to a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands.

“In the year 2022 or, if possible, before, India will unfurl the tricolour in space,” he said.

Not long after Narendra Modi’s election in 2014, India became the first Asian country to reach Mars when its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM – also known as Mangalyaan) entered Martian orbit, at a cost of U.S.$74 million, an amount that was less than the budget of the Hollywood hit movie “Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock.

India has traditionally focused its able space programme on the socio-economic needs of Indians, and until a few years ago eschewed grandiose space science and exploration missions. More recently, however, as India’s economy has quickly grown and its geopolitical rivalry with China has intensified, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been asked to mount larger and more ambitious space missions.

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