While announcing the estimated launch date of India’s first manned space mission Gaganyaan, which will be in December 2021, ISRO Chief K Sivan said on Friday that the space agency wants women astronauts to be a part of the programme as it is not a “men only” mission.

The Indian Space Research Organisation aka ISRO undertook a total 17 space missions in 2018, and is now preparing for the lunar lander probe mission – the Chandrayaan-2, which is to launch in mid-April. Meanwhile, ISRO chairman K Sivan revealed the future plans of the space agency and said that December 2021 is the deadline for India to send astronauts into space via the country’s first manned mission – Gaganyaan. But before the manned mission, ISRO will be sending two unmanned missions, slated for December 2020 and July 2021.

The ISRO chief also said that a budget of Rs 10,000 crore has been granted for development of Gaganyaan, and three astronauts will be sent to space for seven days, but the final decision on how many people will go to space has not been made yet. Astronauts will be selected based on a number of parameters and screening tests, and speaking about the role of women, Sivan said that “a woman astronaut is likely to be in the team” since Gaganyaan is not a “men only mission”, but the final decision depends on the selection process.

Also, everyone will be given equal chance as ISRO says that they are “not distinguishing. Indian Air Force (IAF) will be there, civilians can also be there. If they meet the required criteria and standard, they will be selected. The selection committee will take the final call”. Once selection is complete, the initial training of astronauts will be done in India, and more advanced preparations will possibly be done in Russia. A special space facility called the Human Spaceflight Centre (HSC) has been developed in Bangalore, and will be headed by senior scientist Unnikrishnan Nair to undergo various tests prior to launching India’s first manned mission.