Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Monday, 23 February 2009

India 'to join elite space club'

By Greg Morsbach
BBC News

Moon
A new Asian race for the Moon is on

India has earmarked more than $2.5bn to launch its own manned space flight and join the elite club of the US, China and Russia.

India's planning commission has set aside the cash to finance preparations.

A spokesman for the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) welcomed the news.

If, as widely expected, the cabinet approves the plan, India could operate its first two-man space mission within a few years.

'Challenges'

Only the US, Russia and China can currently put their own astronauts into space using their own spacecraft.

India's dream is expensive and the planning commission, chaired by India's prime minister, has agreed to hand over billions of dollars to make it happen.

Officials at Isro feel that they are now a big step closer to getting manned missions off the ground.

Spokesman S Satish said: "The target launch date is around 2015, wherein we plan to put two astronauts in a lower orbit for about a week's duration.

"And we have to establish a facility for training the astronaut, then we have to build a human space capsule - so these are some of the major technological challenges."

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