The first Indian in space aboard an Indian space shuttle could be a woman, said Jitendra Singh, Union minister of state for space. He was talking at an interaction organised by the Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC) on Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced in his Independence Day address from the Red Fort that India's human space mission would happen by 2022.
Singh said that the mission date could be a little before or a little after 2022. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) would be in charge of the mission. The space agency has been getting its technologies ready towards this goal for the last several years.
India's first man in space was Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, but he flew aboard a Soviet spacecraft in 1984.
Two women of Indian origin—Haryana-born Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, born to an Indian father—have been spacefarers with NASA missions.
India has not sent a human aboard its own spacecraft, yet.
Singh said that the modality of the mission was still being worked out. At this stage, it is not clear whether the astronauts would be selected from the Indian Air Force (IAF). The IAF has a cadre of women pilots, and they have now also got inducted into the fighter pilot branch. Modi had also announced at the I-Day address that women would be given a permanent commission in military.