India prepares to land rover on moon in global space race

Above, scientists work on the orbiter vehicle of Chandrayaan-2 in Bangalore on June 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2019
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India prepares to land rover on moon in global space race

  • Indian Space Research Organization plans to launch a spacecraft using homegrown technology on Monday
  • The $141 million Chandrayaan-2 mission will analyze minerals, map the moon’s surface and search for water

NEW DELHI: India is looking to take a giant leap in its space program and solidify its place among the world’s spacefaring nations with its second unmanned mission to the moon, this one aimed at landing a rover near the unexplored south pole.
The Indian Space Research Organization plans to launch a spacecraft using homegrown technology on Monday, and it is scheduled to touch down on the moon Sept. 6 or 7. The $141 million Chandrayaan-2 mission will analyze minerals, map the moon’s surface and search for water.
It will “boldly go where no country has ever gone before,” ISRO said in a statement.
With India poised to become the world’s fifth-largest economy, the ardently nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to show off the country’s prowess in security and technology.
India successfully test-fired an anti-satellite weapon in March, which Modi said demonstrated the country’s capacity as a space power alongside the United States, Russia and China. India also plans to send humans into space by 2022, becoming only the fourth nation to do so.
The country’s ambitions are playing out amid a resurgent space race.
The US — which is marking the 50th anniversary this month of the Apollo 11 mission that made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the first humans on the moon — is working to send a manned spacecraft to the lunar south pole by 2024. In April, an unmanned Israeli craft crashed into the moon in a failed attempt at the first privately funded lunar landing.
Decades of space research have allowed India to develop satellite, communications and remote sensing technologies that are helping solve everyday problems at home, from forecasting fish migration to predicting storms and floods.
India’s first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, whose name is Sanskrit for “moon craft,” orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of water. In 2013-14, India put a satellite into orbit around Mars in the nation’s first interplanetary mission.
Some have questioned the expense in a country of 1.3 billion people with widespread poverty and one of the world’s highest child mortality rates. But author and economic commentator Gurcharan Das said that the cost of the second moonshot is small compared with India’s overall budget and that the project could have a multiplier effect on the economy.
He called on India to get the country’s private sector more involved in research and development, which he said could yield “huge benefits” beyond the realm of space travel.
The spacecraft will have a lunar orbiter, lander and a rover. The lander will carry a camera, a seismometer, a thermal instrument and a NASA-supplied laser retroreflector that will help calculate the distance between the Earth and the moon.
The lunar south pole is especially interesting because a much larger portion of it is in shadow than the north pole, presenting a greater possibility of water. Water is an essential ingredient for life, and finding it is part of science’s broader goal of determining whether there is life elsewhere in our solar system.
This will be the first rover to look for water at the south pole.
“These days, it has become the place to go,” said space expert N. Rathnasree.


‘Stronger than ever’: India set for fresh Moon launch attempt

Updated 21 July 2019
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‘Stronger than ever’: India set for fresh Moon launch attempt

  • The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon
  • The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag”

SRIHARIKOTA, India: India will make a second attempt Monday to send a landmark spacecraft to the Moon after an apparent fuel leak forced last week’s launch to be aborted.
The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation — after Russia, the United States and China — to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
The mission comes 50 years after Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon, an occasion celebrated by space enthusiasts globally on Saturday
The fresh launch attempt for Chandrayaan-2 — Moon Chariot 2 in some Indian languages including Sanskrit and Hindi — has been scheduled for 2:43 p.m. (0913 GMT) on Monday, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said.
“Chandrayaan 2 is ready to take a billion dreams to the Moon — now stronger than ever before!” it said on Thursday.
The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag.” Local media, citing ISRO officials, said that issue was a fuel leak.
The agency tweeted Saturday that a rehearsal for the launch was completed successfully.
Chandrayaan-2 will be launched atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII, India’s most powerful rocket.
Experts said setbacks were to be expected in such missions given their complexity, and that it was more prudent to delay the launch instead of taking risks that may jeopardize the project.
“In such an ambitious and prestigious mission like Chandrayaan, one cannot take a chance even if a small flaw is detected,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of space policy at the New Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation, told AFP.
Former NASA scientist Kumar Krishen said India’s space agency should be praised for taking on ambitious projects like Chandrayaan-2.
“We should keep in mind that space exploration is risky as many systems have failed in the past and many lives lost,” he told AFP.
Aside from propelling India into rarefied company among spacefaring nations, Chandrayaan-2 also stands out because of its low cost.
About $140 million has been spent on preparations for the mission, a much smaller price tag compared with similar missions by other countries — whose costs often run into billions of dollars.
Chandrayaan-2, and India’s space program as a whole, are a source of national pride in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has outlined an ambitious plan to launch a crewed space mission by 2022, and India hopes to seek out commercial satellite and orbiting deals.
The new mission comes almost 11 years after the launch of India’s first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — which orbited the Moon and searched for water.
The rocket carrying Chandrayaan-2 will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The spacecraft will carry an orbiter, lander and a rover, which has been almost entirely designed and made in India.
The orbiter is planned to circle the Moon for about one year, imaging the surface and studying the atmosphere.
The lander, named Vikram, will head to the surface near the lunar South Pole carrying the rover. Once it touches down, the rover will carry out experiments while being controlled remotely by ISRO scientists.
It is expected to work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, and will look for signs of water and “a fossil record of the early solar system.”