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Is A Chandrayaan-3 In The Works?

Is A Chandrayaan-3 In The Works?
Part of an artist's depiction of Chandrayaan-2 and the 'Vikram' lander, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

According to sources at ISRO, a third, homegrown lunar exploration mission could be slated for November 2020. Here’s what we know so far

OT Staff
November 15 , 2019
03 Min Read

The Internet is abuzz with news of a possible Chandrayaan-3 attempt. Reports are flying in left, right and centre about the partners and logistics of the mission—or whether it’ll actually happen—but a PTI report from November 14, 2019 seems to suggest there is some truth to the excitement. 

Sources in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) informed the news agency that a high-level committee has been appointed to prepare a report for a third mission that could successfully deploy a lunar lander and rover to the south pole of our moon. “The committee has been given a guideline to prepare the mission before the end of next year," a senior ISRO official told PTI, due to the possibility of a good launch window in November 2020. 

However, things are still in the proposal stage, and the panel’s report is still awaited. The committee is being headed by S Somanath, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. 

Strangely, within a day of online chatter about the third attempt, Chandrayaan-3 already had its own Wikipedia page, with multiple references to the project being a collaboration with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the US’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

ISRO chairperson K Sivan had expressed his determination towards securing a soft landing on the moon. This is sync with a joint statement released by JAXA and NASA, which mentions a “planned JAXA-Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Lunar Polar Exploration mission”. 

A 2019 research paper by experts at JAXA also noted that a joint mission review was concluded between the two countries. There, it was decided that JAXA will provide a launch rocket and a rover, while ISRO will provide a lander system. Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, too, reported this project in July 2019, stating that the Indian and Japanese and Indian governments were joining forces to discover water on the moon. However, we can’t say for sure whether this refers to the proposed November 2020 mission, or a different venture. 

JAXA's rendition of the H3 launch vehicle, which is still under development

Shimbun had reported that “Japan’s H3 launch vehicle, which is under development, will send the rover-loaded lander to the moon sometime around fiscal 2023. The lander is expected to touch down on the moon’s south pole, where water likely exists. The rover will then explore an area 500 meters square to try to detect water using onboard analysis equipment.”

‘Vikram’, Chandrayaan-2’s soft lander, had failed to successfully land and make contact with ISRO in the September mission this year, much to the chagrin of millions of Indian. Somanath’s committee has apparently zeroed in on the operation’s mistakes, and prepared a ‘voluminous report’ for the Department of Space. “Rover, lander and landing operations will get more focus this time, and whatever deficiencies in the Chandrayaan-2 mission will be corrected," sources told PTI.

The report is expected to be shared in the public domain after approval from the Prime Minister’s Office. 


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