Free Press Journal

Modi government plans space missions ahead of general election


Bengaluru: If all goes according to plan, the second lunar mission hopes to make a soft unmanned landing on the moon in the run-up to the general election. The spin-offs that will accrue to the Modi government from the hype around the lunar landing are anybody’s guess.

The Rs 800-crore lunar mission named “Chandrayaan-2” comes over a decade after India went into the lunar orbit in November 8, 2008, after the “Chandrayaan-1” launch. Chandrayaan-2’s main goal is to demonstrate the nation’s soft-landing capability. If successful, it will make India the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon after the US, Soviet Union and China.

As part of this mission, a lander with rover which will separate from the spacecraft will orbit the moon, and then gradually descend on the lunar surface at a designated spot. The lander has been named “Vikram” as a tribute to the pioneer of India’s space programme and former ISRO chairman Vikram Sarabhai. The rover landing on the moon will come nearly 50 years after American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the eerie lunar surface. As part of Chandrayaan-1, ISRO had made a moon impact probe vehicle crash land on the surface from the lunar orbit.

India will launch its second lunar mission on January 3 next year, a top space official said on Sunday. ‘‘We want to launch the mission on January 3 next year, but the window to land on the lunar surface is open till March 2019,” Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman K. Sivan told reporters here. According to sources, this is just one decision away from launching a manned mission. In an exclusive interview, Sivan told a TV channel that several of the critical technologies are already in place, including a crew module and a crew escape system. A prototype space suit has also been developed. The only Indian to have ventured out in space thus far is Rakesh Sharma, a former Air Force pilot who was part of a Russian mission in 1984. Till now, only Russia, U.S. and China have been able to conduct independent human space missions.

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