India opens its first center for human spaceflight

Crewed space travel won't just be limited to a handful of countries.

Crewed spaceflight is still limited to a handful of countries, but India is close to changing that. The Indian Space Research Organization has formally opened its first facility devoted to human spaceflight. The appropriately titled Human Space Flight Centre in Bengaluru will be responsible for key aspects of Gaganyaan, the country's crewed orbital vehicle (shown in replica form above). The location will develop crew survival systems, train crew members, plan missions and "pursue activities" for sustained flights.

There's a lot of work left to do. Gaganyaan will only fly in unpiloted form in December 2020, and the hoped-for crewed mission should take place in December 2021. Many pieces will have to fall into place, and India has faced some of the same teething troubles other space programs have faced. If everything goes well, though, India could have a truly independent way to deliver people to orbit -- it wouldn't have to rely on partner nations. That, in turn, could make spaceflight less of a privileged rarity and more of an everyday reality.