India to build capsule to carry two-person crew into space by 2015

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London, July 9 (ANI): Despite the economic slowdown, the Indian government plans to hike its science budget, with special emphasis on developing semi-cryogenic rocket engines, building a space capsule to carry a two-person crew into space by 2015 and for setting up the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System.

According to a report in Nature News, India will spend 289 billion rupees on research and development this year, 19 percent more than last year, according to the budget for 2009-2010 announced on July 6.

The largest allocations are for atomic energy (71.7 billion rupees), the space programme (49.6 billion rupees) and defence research (47.6 billion rupees), while eight 'national missions' or programmes to combat climate change - announced by the government last year - are to be launched.

The 40 percent hike in the space budget from last year's 35 billion rupees is largely to go towards developing semi-cryogenic rocket engines, building a space capsule to carry a two-person crew into space by 2015 and for setting up the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System along the lines of the US GPS (Global Positioning System), space department spokesman S. Satish told Nature News.

Heads of government scientific departments say that although none of their projects has been shot down because of the economic slowdown, the increase in their budgets is less this year than in previous years.

"Allocations for us had been increasing by 30% each year, but this year it is only 20 percent," said Thirumalachari Ramasami, secretary of the Department of Science and Technology.

The departments of health research, biotechnology and industrial research have received only 4-12 percent increases, but "none of us feels that our projects will suffer," Ramasami told Nature News.

Funding for Earth sciences has, however, increased by 50 percent to 12.1 billion rupees, with a provision of 5.48 billion rupees for oceanographic research, including the setting up of a third Indian station in Antarctica and purchase of research vessels.

The budget for higher education increased by nearly 41 billion rupees to 154 billion rupees, including 4.5 billion rupees for new institutes of technology.

In a move to draw students to science, the budget provides for interest-free loans for those pursuing approved courses of study in technical and professional schools.

Another 5.4 billion rupees has been set aside for a National Knowledge Network of gigabit bandwidth to connect educational institutions across the country. (ANI)

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