ISRO is going to host many important missions to the Moon, Sun, Venus and Mars and a manned space mission in the next two years, means the space agency has no time to relax.
ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) will not have time to scrutinize the failure of Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander and Pragyan rover. It has as many as 8 major future space missions planned over the next decade.
There is an upside to ISRO’s deep disappointment over Chandrayaan 2’s lunar lander Vikram failing to soft-land on the moon on September 7.
The space agency’s next upcoming missions includes sending probes to the Sun, Mars, Venus, and Chandrayaan 3, its return to the moon, in 2024.
Isro’s next mission is likely to be bigger and much better, may include bringing back samples from the Moon’s polar region.
ISRO-JAXA (Japan’s Space Agency) Moon mission & NASA’s Artemis programme
For this mission, ISRO will be tying up with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).
The Joint ISRO-JAXA mission is likely to be implemented in 2024, after India’s proposed human spaceflight mission in 2022.
“ISRO and JAXA scientists are conducting a feasibility study to realise a joint satellite mission to explore to the Moon’s polar region,”ISRO said in a statement.
The first thinking on a joint India-Japan Moon mission was made public in 2017, it was also a part of the intergovernmental discussions during PM Modi’s visit to Japan in 2018.
Sources in ISRO said, the mission is still “very much on the table”and ISRO and scientists will continue to work on it.
The Lunar Polar Explorations (LPE), going by initial discussions, is looking at sending a rover to Moon and its timeline will clash with NASA’s return to the Moon in the next few years through the Artemis programme.
On the other hand, NASA is looking to send humans to the Moon again, whereas, ISRO-JAXA mission will be robotic only.
India too, has quitely been working on some off the technologies that may come to use if humans ebventually decide to spend some time on Moon.
India’s Chandrayaan 3 & Future Space missions
Chandrayaan 3, expected around 2024, will see ISRO and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) send a joint mission to the Moon’s south pole in 2024.
JAXA’s asteroid explorer, Hayabusa 2, successfully completed its second risky landing on an asteroid this July, showcasing Japan’s precision technology prowess.
It is likely to provide the rocket and lunar rover that will drill the Moon’s surface to conduct scientific experiments while ISRO will contribute a lander.
Further, by the end of the next decade, or a little later in the 2030s, India wants to have a space station where the astronauts can stay longer to conduct experiments.
Additionally, from the space station, inter-planetary missions to Mars and Venus can also be also launched. It will help all space-faring nations on Earth to advance.
The goal is to explore the suitability of the region to host a sustainable lunar base.
Roscosmos(Russia’s Space Agency) was to provide the Chandrayaan 2 lander
Chandrayaan 2, when it was first cleared by former PM Manmohan Singh in September 2008, was also planned to be ajoint venture with Russia.
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos was to provide the lander. However, it did not happen, the deal fell through to go solo in in 2012.
On September 6, just hours before ISRO lost contact with the Vikram lander, the Indian air force announced that it had finished Level 1 selections, screening its first batch of 25 test pilots for ISRO’s Gaganyaan manned space mission.
Three selected fighter pilots will be sent to Russia later this year to be trained as astronauts for ISRO’s first manned space mission by December 2021.
Russia is helping India make the space suits and train its astronauts to live in a space capsule for the week-long mission.
Apart from Russian space agency Roscosmos, ISRO has reached an agreement with the European Space Agency for assistance in building key technologies and expertise for a safe first human spaceflight.
Additionally, preparations related to human health will include training doctors to handle issues related to low and zero gravity, confinement, space food, psychological conditioning and physical reaction to the space environment.
ISRO’s future space missions to Sun, Venus and Mars
By 2020, ISRO will launch Aditya L-1, the first dedicated scientific mission to study the corona or the outer layer of the Sun.
The space agency will launch Shukrayaan 1, a fly-by mission around 400 kilometres over Venus by 2023.
Mangalyaan 2 will see the agency launch another spacecraft into the Mars orbit by 2022-23 to study the red planet.
Besides, ISRO wants to launch Astrosat 2, a second observatory in space, by around 2020.
The observatory will replace Astrosat 1 and help the space agency understand the origins of the Universe, perhaps discover new planets.
Only United States, Russia(former Soviet Union) and China have landed a spacecraft on the Moon
Chandrayaan 1, launched in 2008, operated for 312 days. In its 3,400 orbits around the Moon, the spacecraft revealed to the world the existence of water molecules near the south pole of the Moon’s surface.
Moreover, the research that followed that significant discovery has recently shown that there is plenty of water on the Moon.
Chandrayaan 2, the orbiter will spend seven years in the lunar orbit continuing its mission. Its images, relayed 100 km above the Moon.
The orbiter will help ISRO scientists make accurate estimates about water in the Moon’s polar craters and also look for minerals.
The Chandrayaan 2 lander Vikram, named after India’s space programme pioneer Vikram A. Sarabhai.
The Vikram lander was just 2.1 kilometres away from the surface of the moon when the ISRO, lost contact with it.
In short, Chandrayaan 2 is not a failed mission, only Vikram lander have failed due to connection lost, the orbiter is still working and will continue to work till 7 years, as per ISRO.
Fortunately, 95% of experiments on board Chandrayaan 2 are in the orbiter, which is reported to be in good health as it swings around the moon from pole to pole. Isro can look forward to a wealth of data from it.
Only three space-faring nations, Russia, United States and China, in that order, have achieved this feat so far, with China being the only country to have made it in the first attempt.
NASA’s Moon Fact Sheet notes that only 61 of the 109 lunar expeditions in the past 6 decades have been successful.