India prepares for new moon landing mission

Max Blenkin

Undeterred by the failure of its Chandrayaan-2 mission to land a probe on the moon, India is reportedly planning another attempt for as early as next year.

India prepares for new moon landing mission
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Neither the Indian government nor the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have detailed their plans but media reports indicate preparations for the Chandrayaan-3 mission are well under way.

The Times of India quoted an unnamed scientist who said the new moon lander would have stronger legs to allow the spacecraft to better withstand a faster touchdown.

"It is essential to carry out detailed analysis on the changes for improving the lander system considering the recommendations of both the expert committee (formed to look into Chandrayaan-2) and the recommendations which could not be implemented due to advanced stage of Chandrayaan-2 flight preparation," according to an ISRO internal order quoted in The Times.

India’s much heralded Chandrayaan-2 mission to land a probe on the moon in early September was proceeding perfectly – right up until contact was lost with the descending lander, named Vikram, about two kilometres above the lunar surface.

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After touchdown it was intended that a rover would spend two weeks exploring the surface and collecting data on mineral and chemical composition and, hopefully, water.

Indian officials acknowledged Vikram made a hard landing, so hard that contact could not be established.

Like Israel’s unsuccessful Beresheet mission to the moon in April, Chandrayaan-2 demonstrated that difficulties emerge in the final moments. Beresheet functioned perfectly until a technical problem in descent and it impacted the moon surface.

Had India succeeded where Israel failed, it would have joined a very exclusive club as just the fourth nation, after the US, Russia and China, to soft land a robotic probe on the moon.

The proposed Chandrayaan-3 mission will only include the lander and rover as the orbiter from Chandrayaan-2 remains active in lunar orbit.

The Times of India said for the new mission, ISRO has three sub-committees and an over-arching panel examining proposal.

They have already held a series of top level meetings.

“On Tuesday (November 12), the overview committee met with the agenda of reviewing the configuration of Chandrayaan-3," The Times said.

No details of the launch date, landing site or mission payloads have been released. However, the reported deadline for the project is November 2020.

According to ISRO, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter remains in good health with its instruments producing useful scientific data.

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