NEW DELHI: India plans to establish its own “very small” space station in the next decade as the country gears up for a first manned mission beyond earth. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chief K Sivan said Thursday that the ambitious project would follow a successful launch of a manned space flight scheduled by 2022. “Our space station is going to be very small… useful to carry out experiments,” Sivan told reporters in New Delhi. “We are not having a big plan of sending humans on tourism and other things,” he added.

A space station is capable of hosting crew members for years on end, and provides facilities for experiments and support vehicles to dock. India’s first manned space mission — named Gaganyaan — is due to take place by 2022, in time to commemorate 75 of years of the country’s independence from Britain. It will have two or three astronauts on a maximum seven-day mission. The Indian announcement comes a day after the country unveiled an unmanned moon lander expected to be launched on July 15 for a touchdown on the lunar surface around September 6.

India successfully sent a first lunar mission to space in 2008, playing a crucial role in the discovery of water molecules on the moon. The country has made giant strides on its space journey in recent years and has been a pioneer in low-cost technology. It sent a mission to Mars in 2014 for just $74 million — a fraction of the $671 million spent by the US space agency NASA. ISRO also plans to send a mission to study the Sun in 2020, and to Venus by 2023. – AFP