TO COMPLETE the unfinished job of Chandrayaan-2, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will send another moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, either this year or the next, and make a fresh attempt at landing on the lunar surface.
Addressing a press conference in Bengaluru on Wednesday, ISRO chairman K Sivan also announced that four Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots had been selected for the Gaganyaan mission, India’s first attempt at a manned mission, and that they would begin their training programme from the third week of this month. ISRO intends to send the Gaganyaan mission by 2022.
Chandrayaan-2, launched in July last year, had failed to soft-land its lander and rover modules on the moon. Just a few hundred metres from the lunar surface, the spacecraft had developed problems in the last stages of its descent and was unable to reduce its speed at the required rate. It had crash-landed on the moon’s surface. The Orbiter module of Chandrayaan-2, which is meant to orbit the moon and collect observational data over the next seven years, however, has been functioning normally.
Unlike Chandrayaan-2, the Chandrayaan-3 mission would not have an Orbiter module, Sivan said. It would only have a lander and rover components, and would be aimed solely at establishing ISRO’s capability to land on an extra-terrestrial body, something that is essential before ISRO can undertake more missions to the moon.
Chandrayaan-3 has been necessitated by the failure of Chandrayaan-2 to land on the moon. If Chandrayaan-2 had succeeded, Chandrayaan-3 would have come a few years later, as a sample return mission, in which the spacecraft would not just be made to land on the moon but also return to earth with rock and soil samples. Many more technologies need to be tested for that kind of mission besides the ability to soft-land. All other future missions to the moon, including a possible manned mission, would also involving landing a spacecraft. Mastering that technology is therefore crucial for ISRO.
“The Chandrayaan-3 mission has been approved. All the preparation activities on the mission are going on smoothly. The configuration of Chandrayaan-3 would be almost similar to Chandrayaan-2, but it would not have an Orbiter,” Sivan said.
He said Chandrayaan-3 can use the onboard facilities on the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter for communicating with ground stations during its flight and descent on the moon.
Sivan said several missions were lined up for 2020, and a large number of activities related to Chandrayaan-3 and Gaganyaan projects were also likely to be completed this year.
“This year will be the year of Gaganyaan and Chandrayaan-3. We have made good progress on the Gaganyaan mission in 2019. There are several tests that need to be carried out for Gaganyaan, including crew training and human rating for the propulsion module. Many of these tests would be completed this year,” he said.
Sivan also announced that ISRO would soon have a second launch facility, in addition to the one at Sriharikota. “The land acquisition process for this new facility has been initiated. This second launch facility would be located in Toothukudi district of Tamil Nadu,” he said. Besides, the Sriharikota centre would be equipped with a second launch vehicle assembly building, so that two rockets can be assembled simultaneously, he said.