, India —


priorities of the Indian Space Research Organis

(ISRO) for the next two decades will be

reduction of launch costs, planetary exploration and the use of satellites for environmental monitoring, according to

ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair.

“first vision” to use space technology for social development has

almost been achieved, Nair said.

Since its founding, ISRO’s focus has been utilizing space in ways that meet the needs of Indian society such as satellite communications and environmental modeling. While

applications that benefit society will continue, ISRO is embarking on its “second vision” with the goal of developing “advanced technologies for low-cost access to space, planetary exploration and manned mission initiatives,” Nair said Sept. 24 during the opening session of the 58th meeting of the International Astronautical Congress, which was held here Sept. 24-28.

Nair and his counterparts from the United States, Russia, Europe, China, Japan, Canada and France all gave

overviews of current programs and their future plans.

Nair said India is not considering joining the international space station (ISS) for the present:

“We will do so if our scientists feel there is a need to conduct studies in the ISS.”

He said launch costs of ISRO’s existing rockets are already 20 to 30 percent cheaper than international commercial launch prices and will become 50 per

cent cheaper once a new

version of the country’s Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle is ready in 2009. “But we intend to reduce the cost further,” he said.

Toward this end, ISRO will work on developing reusable launch vehicle and propulsion systems. “We are considering semi-cryogenic and air-breathing engines as well as ionic and nuclear propulsion,” he said.

Nair said no decision has yet been made about

sending Indian astronauts into space. “We are assessing the feasibility of manned missions and these studies will take another year to complete,

” he said. “Once approved by the government, it will take seven to eight

years for ISRO to put an Indian in orbit.”

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said

interplanetary missions –

getting back to the Moon, staying there for some time

and then going on to Mars – will be high on

the agenda of the United States once the international space station

mission is over.

“That is the only way humans will be able to extend beyond Earth,” he said, adding that humans


set foot on Mars by


Sun Laiyan, administrator of China National Space Administration, announced his country’s plan to establish a constellation of eight satellites over the course of the

next three years for environmental monitoring and disaster mitigation.

Three of these – including one radar imaging satellite – will be launched in 2008

, he said. “We are looking for international cooperation from all space agencies and we hope to share the information with other countries,” he said.

Sun Laiyan made it clear that China has no plans to send human crews

to the

Moon now, but may do so in future. He said China’s objectives for the present are “orbiting, roving and bringing samples” from the

Moon. China’s first lunar orbiter

already has been transferred to the launch site and the mission will fly “before the end of the year,”

he said.

Exploration of the Moon and Mars is also among the future goals for

Canada, said Laurier (Larry) Boisvert, president of the Canadian Space Agency


Anatoly Periminov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, said that apart from planetary exploration, his country will pursue work on an anti-asteroid system, manufacturing

materials in space and robotic spacecraft missions.

While Japan is hoping to send humans

to the

Moon sometime in the future, KeijiTachikawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

(JAXA), said Japan’s initial focus in the years ahead will be

to probe the Moon for “potential utilization.” He said the Japanese

spacecraft Kaguya, which was launched on a trajectory to the

Moon Sept. 14,

will begin its scientific explorations

in October.

In his Sept. 24

address to begin the conference, PrithvirajChauhan, India’s minister in charge of space affairs, said ISRO has planned about 60 missions that will take place over the next five years. Those missions are intended to improve the country’s capabilities

in the fields of navigation and positioning;

advanced communications;

space transportation;

Earth observation; and space science. “All this will provide increased opportunities for commercial and scientific cooperation with India,” he said.

The minister also said there are several issues that require attention at the international level, including a review of the current policies and regulations that affect market access for satellite services and the regulations that restrict the international flow of technology for commercial space activities. He appeared to be referring to complaints from some international satellite services providers about the difficulty of gaining access to the Indian telecommunications and satellite television markets and the restrictions that many countries place on sharing satellite technology.

In addition, without specifically referring to the anti-satellite test conducted by China in January,

the Indian minister also called for “a robust system for protection of space assets whether used for military, commercial or societal applications.”