The last time a country landed anything on the Moon was in 2013, when China landed its Yutu rover there. Before that, we would have to go back to the 1970s to find something built by the earthlings.
But in 2018, India says it will be ready to be next. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is preparing to land its first lunar vehicle by the end of March 2018, as part of its Chandrayaan-2 mission.
‘Chaand’ is the word for the moon in Hindi, so Chandrayaan literally means ‘moon vehicle’ or ‘moon travel’. This is not actually ISRO’s first trip to the Moon, but it is the most ambitious lunar exploration project of the Indian government to date.
Chandrayaan-1 took off from the island of Sriharikota on the east coast of India in 2008, at an estimated cost of 83 million dollars. The ISRO placed it in the lunar orbit and detected some “magmatic water” in a lunar crater.
Then, on November 14, 2008, the probe crashed into the moon and was lost in the lunar orbit before NASA returned to find the “abandoned spacecraft” in 2016. This would be the first attempt by the ISRO to obtain a more delicate and accurate near vision of the lunar surface.
Now the Indian space team is preparing three unmanned vehicles for the trip: an orbital spacecraft that will move over the surface of the Moon, a rover and a lander that will land safely on the Moon.
Everything is being completed with a “reduced” budget of 93 million. The Chandrayaan 2 mission is just one of the projects that ISRO hopes to launch in the coming years. They are also working on a project called ‘Aditya’ that will study the sun, and a satellite called ‘XPoSat’ that they want to use to learn more about cosmic radiation.
If all goes well, this lunar mission will be completed in 14 Earth days, long enough for the Moon to make a full orbit around our planet. A more detailed understanding of the Moon will be key if we want to expand our horizons beyond the Earth.