India is gearing up for its second moon mission next year, a decade after its first.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now testing out its lunar landing system to be sure it can safely touchdown on the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan 2, as the mission is titled, is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2018, ISRO chief AS Kiran Kumar reportedly said at an event Wednesday.
Chandrayaan 2 will deliver an orbiter, lander and rover to the moon. It is an advanced version of the first lunar (Chandrayaan-1) mission that India launched in Oct. 2008.
While the former had only orbited the moon, the second mission will include the 6-foot-long rover that will analyze the moon’s dirt from the lunar surface.
The ISRO facilities in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu and in Chitradurga district near Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, are being used for testing, and scientists have developed an artificial crater which simulates the moon’s surface for landing experiments, Kiran Kumar said.
ISRO, meanwhile, is basking in the glory of its recent record-breaking feat (it launched 104 satellites in a single rocket). The agency is not ruling out India’s own space station either. Though that seems like a distant dream now given ISRO’s thin budgets.
Interestingly, an Indian startup has also secured a launch contract to send a private mission to the moon. The private organization, named Team Indus, is competing to win the Google Lunar-X competition that asked competitors to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, make it travel for 500 meters and beam high resolution photos and videos back to Earth.
Team Indus secured a dedicated rocket from ISRO and if all goes well, it will fly a home-made spacecraft aboard ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PLSV) later this year.
All roads lead to moon, eh?