Indian Space Research Organisation Chairperson K Sivan on Saturday said Mission Gaganyaan was the space agency’s next priority, Hindustan Times reported. Chandrayaan-2 had achieved 98% of its objectives, he added. The statements came even as lunar night set in on the moon’s South Pole, dashing hopes of reestablishing contact with Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander.

“There are eight instruments in the orbiter and each instrument is doing exactly what it meant to do,” ANI quoted Sivan as saying in Odisha’s capital Bhubaneswar. “Regarding the lander, we have not been able to establish communication with it. Our next priority is Gaganyaan mission.”

The ISRO chief, who is in the city to attend eigth convocation ceremony of the Indian Institute of Technology, said scientists were trying to analyse what went wrong. “Orbiter continues to perform scheduled science experiments to complete satisfaction,” he added.

“There are questions – in what way Gaganyaan is going to be useful?” he said at the convocation ceremony. “Gaganyaan is extremely important for India as it will boost the science and technology capability of the country. By 2020 December we are going to have the first unmanned mission of human space plane.”

Also read: NASA orbiter fails to locate Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander during flyover

The Gaganyaan programme will be India’s first manned mission to space. The space agency is planning to send two unmanned missions to space in December 2020 and July 2021, and the manned mission in December 2021 ahead of the 2022 deadline that was initially announced.

The Union Cabinet had approved the mission on December 28. It is expected to cost Rs 10,000 crore, and will include the cost of technology development, flight hardware and essential infrastructure elements. The programme will carry a three-member crew into space for a minimum of seven days.

A three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle, GSLV Mk III, will be used to launch the spacecraft, and national agencies will collaborate with the Indian Space Research Organisation to bring the mission to fruition.

If Gaganyaan is successful, India will become the fourth nation to launch a manned mission to space after Russia, the United States and China.

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