India’s ambitious mission to the moon piggybacking a lunar rover is postponed once again with a possible lift-off only in 2019. The Chandrayan-2 mission was earlier slated for October 2018 and is now rescheduled because of technical glitches. This delay may now give Israel an opportunity to edge past India with its moon landing.
Israel through a non-profit company called SpaceIL seeks to launch its moon probe, Sparrow, in December this year. The Israel mission will be using the American Falcon-9 rocket hoping to soft land on the moon on February 13, 2019. It is now a wait and watch game as to who grabs the fourth spot of soft landing on the moon — India or Israel.
Considered to be good friends, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, both known space buffs, will be urging the nations space agencies to edge past the other.
On the second visit to moon, India hopes to soft land near the south pole of moon and explore the lunar surface with a tiny six-wheeled moon rover and conduct experiments. Technical glitches are causing delays at ISRO.
Dr M Annadurai, Director of U R Rao Satellite Centre confirmed to NDTV that the launch date for Chandryaan-2 “is slipping to 2019” from the initially planned launch in October this year.
Dr Annadurai said that India’s moon mission now aims to land in February and the rocket launch will take place in January next year.
Moreover, since the weight of the Chandrayaan-2 satellite has increased, Dr Annadurai said that now instead of GSLV MK-II, GSLV MK-III will be used. Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MK-III (GSLV MK-III), also called the ‘The Bahubali‘, is India’s heaviest rocket that weighs nearly 640 tons and will be used to hoist the Chandrayaan-2 satellite from India’s rocket port at Sriharikota.
“The orbiter is fully ready and tested and as far as lander is concerned, it is undergoing tests. It needs four plus one, five thrusters of 800 Newtons which will be used to make it gradually come down and land on the moon surface. These tests are going on in a simulated moon environment,” Dr Annadurai told NDTV.
He added, “The rover is also being tested in a simulated lunar terrain environment. All things put together we will be able to manage end of this year to roll out all the three combinations from the ISRO Satellite Center in Bengaluru to Sriharikota.”
Through Chandrayaan-2 India is hoping to assert its independent capability of not only orbiting a satellite but also show its technical prowess of soft landing and then sending a rover on the lunar surface. The rover will leave a permanent imprint of India’s flag and emblem on moon’s surface.
India first sent a spacecraft to the moon in 2008 through Chandrayaan-1 which was essentially an orbiter. But it did crash land on the moon surface through the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) on November 14, 2008, through what is called a hard landing on the lunar surface. ISRO says the MIP would have broken into pieces on crash landing.
Till date Russia, the US and China have successfully soft landed on the lunar surface and now India and Israel are racing against each other take the fourth spot in the elite club.
The then Soviet Union soft landed on the moon on February 3, 1966 through its Luna-9 spacecraft. It was followed by the United States through its Surveyor-1 spacecraft that soft landed on the moon on June 2, 1966. The next country to independently soft land on the moon was China on December 14, 2013 when its spacecraft Chang’e-3 soft landed a rover called Yutu or ‘Jade Rabbit’ on the lunar surface. Of course, in between 12 American astronauts visited the lunar surface starting with Neil Armstrong in 1969.
As of now India has no plans of sending astronauts or vyomnauts to the moon, but ISRO does harbour ambitions of sending Indians into a low earth orbit some time soon.