KANYAKUMARI: ‘Chandrayaan’ landing on the moon, probably by next week, will be a great accomplishment not just for India, but for the whole of mankind, said Nasa astronaut, Donald Alan Thomas, who was interacting here with around 200 school students, on Saturday.
A veteran who had taken part in four space flights, Donald Alan Thomas, also added that ‘Chandrayaan’ landing at the South pole of the moon’s surface, where nobody had ever landed before, is really a special event. Nasa has been closely following the lunar mission of India as it would help its astronauts plan their moon landing, he added.
“Nasa is to send two astronauts - a man and a woman - to the moon five years from now,” said Donald, adding that Sunita Williams of Indian descendant is likely to be one of them. The ‘Man Mission’ to the moon by Nasa also has been planned to land near the South pole, where ‘Chandrayaan’ is expected to land soon.
Being the former director of operations for Nasa at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut training centre at Moscow in Russia, Donald A Thomas also said that he had learnt that India has sent 14 of its candidates for training at the Yuri Gagarin centre, and four among them would be selected to be the first Indian astronaut crew flying in an Indian rocket to space in 2022.
Appreciating the progress made by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) over the years, Donald, who had been in space totally for 44 days in four space flights, however, refused to rate the countries engaged in space research, saying that space exploration was not a competition, but a coordinated effort of all nations involved in space programmes.
Adding that 15 countries are working at the international space station, Donald said, “We all learn from one another, though we are working on space exploration in different directions.” Donald also recalled the space race between the USA and erstwhile USSR, 50 years back.
The former Nasa astronaut too expressed his desire that when the US astronauts go to Mars after 25 years, the crew should represent all of us on planet earth.
Responding to students on space tourism, Donald said, “‘Virgin Galactic’ company of Richard Branson of the United Kingdom has been working to send passengers to space probably by the end of this year or early next year. He was hopeful that the cost of space tourism will become affordable, and that young students will have a good opportunity during their lifetime to go on a space tour.