The Indian Lunar Exploration Programme (Sanskrit: चन्द्रयान candrayāna, lit: Moon craft pronunciation (help·info)), also known as the Chandrayaan programme, is an ongoing series of outer space missions by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The programme incorporates lunar orbiter, impactor and future lunar lander & rover spacecrafts.
The Chandrayaan (Indian Lunar Exploration Programme) programme is a multiple mission programme; as of Jun-2019 one orbiter with an impactor probe has been sent to the Moon, using ISRO's workhorse PSLV rocket. The second spacecraft consisting of orbiter, soft lander and rover is being readied for a mid July-2019 launch using the GSLV Mk3 rocket.
Phase I: Orbital mission/Impactor
Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced the Chandrayaan project on course in his Independence Day speech on 15 August 2003. The mission was a major boost to India's space program. The idea of an Indian scientific mission to the Moon was first mooted in 1999 during a meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences. The Astronautical Society of India carried forward the idea in 2000. Soon after, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) set up the National Lunar Mission Task Force which concluded that ISRO has the technical expertise to carry out an Indian mission to the Moon. In April 2003 over 100 eminent Indian scientists in the fields of planetary and space sciences, Earth sciences, physics, chemistry, astronomy, astrophysics and engineering and communication sciences discussed and approved the Task Force recommendation to launch an Indian probe to the Moon. Six months later, in November, the Indian government gave the nod for the mission.
The first phase includes the launch of the first lunar orbiters.
- Chandrayaan-1, launched on 22 October 2008 aboard a PSLV-XL rocket, was a big success for ISRO as the Moon Impact Probe, a payload on board the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, discovered water on the Moon. Apart from discovering water the Chandrayaan-1 mission performed several other tasks such as mapping and atmospheric profiling of the Moon.
Phase II: Soft landers/rovers
The Indian government approved the mission in a meeting of the Union Cabinet, held on 18 September 2008 and chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The design of the spacecraft was completed in August 2009, with scientists of both countries conducting a joint review.
Although ISRO finalised the payload for Chandrayaan-2 per schedule, the mission was postponed in January 2013 and rescheduled to 2016 because Russia was unable to develop the lander on time. Roscosmos later withdrew in wake of the failure of the Fobos-Grunt mission to Mars, since the technical aspects connected with the Fobos-Grunt mission were also used in the lunar projects, which needed to be reviewed. When Russia cited its inability to provide the lander even by 2015, India decided to develop the lunar mission independently. The second phase, under preparation as of 2018, will incorporate a spacecraft capable of soft-landing on the Moon and will also deploy a robotic rover on the lunar surface, along with an orbiter to take additional measurements.
Chandrayaan-2 was to be launched on 14 July 2019. But the launch was called off at the last moments, 56 minutes before the launch because of technical issue. The new date of launch is 22 July,2019 aboard a GSLV Mk III rocket.
Phase III: In situ sampling
The next mission will be Chandrayaan-3. It is suggested to be launched in 2024. India is likely to collaborate with Japan in this mission but the mission is not yet defined. Most likely it will be a lander-rover mission to perform In situ sampling and analysis of collected lunar material and demonstrate lunar night survival technologies.
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