Trailing thick white smoke, India's monster home-made rocket GSLV Mk III did a perfect lift-off this afternoon from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The "Naughty boy" of Space Agency ISRO is not only expected to propel it into the big league but also hopes to put a man into orbit. The 640-tonne rocket weighs as much as 200 full-grown Asian elephants or five Jumbo jets. It is expected that one day, perhaps in seven years, it will carry astronauts to space.
Here are the 10 developments in the story
- The "monster rocket", as scientists often call it, was developed over 15 years at a cost ofR 300 crore. It is as high as a 13-storey building and can launch satellites as heavy as 4 tonnes (4,000 kg).
- The GSLV Mk III rocket carries a satellite weighing more than three tonnes into a high orbit above Earth, a landmark achievement as India had struggled to match the heavier payloads of other space giants.
- The ISRO has asked the Centre forR 12,500 crore for its mission to put humans in space. If approved, the work is expected to take roughly seven years. The Indian space agency has already developed critical technologies for a human space mission. The space suit is ready and a crew module was tested in 2014.
- A successful launch of the 640-tonne rocket will be another feather in the cap for scientists at ISRO, who won Asia's race to Mars in 2014 when an Indian spacecraft reached the Red Planet on a shoe-string budget.
- That feat carved out India's reputation as a reliable low-cost option for space exploration, with its $73 million price tag drastically undercutting NASA's Maven Mars $671-million mission.
- ISRO is also mulling the idea of missions to Jupiter and Venus.
- In February, India put a record 104 satellites in orbit from a single rocket, surpassing Russia which launched 39 satellites in one mission in June 2014.
- The rocket's main cargo was a 714-kilogram (1,574-pound) satellite for Earth observation but it was also loaded with 103 smaller "nano satellites", nearly all from other countries.
- India wants to become the fourth nation -- after Russia, the United States and China -- to put astronauts into orbit but its manned spaceflight programme has seen multiple stops and starts.
- ISRO has indicated that the first astronaut from India could well be a woman.