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15 Dec, 2023 13:05

India outlines plans for next Moon mission

The country is targeting 2027 to send another lunar probe that will return samples to Earth
India outlines plans for next Moon mission

India will launch another mission to the Moon within the next four years to bring back samples from the lunar surface, the chief of the country’s space exploration body announced on Thursday. Sreedhara Panicker Somanath, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), said India’s “interest” in the Moon is far from over.   

I assure that we will bring some Moon rocks ourselves,” Somanath stated in a lecture at the president’s official residence, according to the Economic Times. He admitted, however, that the mission will not be “easy.”  

Explaining the plan further, Somanath said that “much more technology” will be required to collect materials from the Moon and bring them back to Earth. The ISRO is aiming to accomplish the mission within the next four years despite its complexity, he added.  

The ISRO chief also confirmed that ‘Gaganyaan’, the country’s ambitious mission to send an Indian astronaut to space, is actively being developed and that service and crew modules have already been designed.

The space agency launched the first of a series of test flights last October in preparation for the manned mission. The basic crew module flipped upside down while being recovered by naval divers after falling into the sea. Next year, the ISRO is scheduled to conduct another experiment to ensure the crew module remains upright after splashing down.  

The crew for the mission received basic training at Russia’s Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow, and is currently undergoing further training in India.   

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting in October, during which he said the ISRO should strive to set up a space station by 2035 and send the first Indian to the Moon by 2040. Somanath said the ISRO has started work on a space station “where human beings can go, dock, and work.”   

Before the Indian space station is built, a module will be launched “which will be a robotic space station,” Somanath said, clarifying that “the manned space station will come only by 2035 because we need new rockets to do that.”  At the same time, he underscored the need to build a “very vibrant” industrial base for space activity in the country. “Today we are hardly 1.68% of GDP of the space economy, which is just not enough for India,” he noted.  

On Friday, India’s minister for petroleum and natural gas, Hardeep Singh Puri, told the ANI news agency that the sector will “receive support” to accomplish ambitious targets set by the country’s leadership.   

‘Chandrayaan-3’, the successful Indian mission which touched down on the Moon in August, was built for only $75 million using indigenously designed parts. Last month, a portion of the spacecraft made an “uncontrolled re-entry” into the Earth’s atmosphere and fell into the Pacific Ocean.  

For the next lunar probe, the ISRO is considering collaborating with the Japanese space agency. The joint Lunar Polar Exploration (Lupex) mission will aim to explore the Moon’s South Pole and investigate how much water can be sourced locally from the lunar surface.  

This year has been largely successful for the Indian space agency. Apart from its successes with the Chandrayaan-3 mission, it also launched the country’s first mission to the Sun, the Aditya-L1, in September. The Chandrayaan-3 Moon landing video, which has over 79 million views on YouTube, emerged as the most-watched Indian video on the platform this year.