India Aims for Moon, Mars and Beyond

India’s space programme looks beyond the Moon
Flight International

ISRO has initiated work on a Rp4.2 billion Chandrayaan-II mission set for launch in 2011-12 atop the three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. The Indo-Russian Chandrayaan-II will feature a lander with a rover, which will be used to collect samples of lunar rocks and soil, subject them to chemical analysis and then transmit the data to the main orbiter.

Beyond Chandrayaan-II, India is looking at a “sample return mission to the Moon”. Nair has said that “if we find mineral resources on the Moon, the next logical step will be to collect and bring them back to Earth”. As this would need a massive lift-off rocket, ISRO would develop a semi-cryogenic launch vehicle working on refined paraffin and expected to be ready in six years. ISRO is also aiming for recoverable and reusable launch vehicles as part of its long-term strategy of making access to space affordable and routine.

Also on ISRO’s agenda is a plan to launch a Mars orbiter. “More than the funding or the capacity to go to Mars, we are looking for good scientific proposals,” says Nair. He has also spoken of a probe to Venus, even while ISRO plans to explore the asteroid belt. ISRO has a plan to land a spacecraft on an asteroid belt and send a probe to fly past a comet during the course of the next decade.

The Rp120 billion Indian manned mission is now a priority area for ISRO. An Indian spaceship with two or three crew members is planned to be launched into a 400km near Earth orbit by a GSLV-MkIII vehicle in 2015.

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