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India to see launch of 2 Moon Missions in early 2018

Highlights
  • Isro will use GSLV Mk II for Chandrayaan-2 as payload is heavier this time (combined launch mass 3,250 kg).
  • Orbiter will be deployed at an altitude of 100km above lunar surface.
  • Scientific payloads on board orbiter, lander and rover will perform mineralogical and elemental studies of lunar surface.

The country will witness the launch of two lunar missions from Indian soil early next year: Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will launch its Chandrayaan-2 mission, an advanced version of its previous 2018 mission with the objective of deeper lunar surface probe, and another mission by Team Indus, a group of space enthusiasts who want to unfurl the tricolour on the moon's surface as part of a global lunar competition.

Team Indus, comprising mostly young engineers and led by IIT-Delhi alumnus Rahul Narayan, is planning the mission as part of a global contest to win $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, which stipulates the rover of a competing team has to move 500 metre on the moon's surface and should be able to beam back high-definition images back to Earth.

To fulfil its ambition, Team Indus has roped in investors like Infosys co-founder and former UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani and space experts such as former Isro chairman K Kasturirangan and many experienced old hands from the Indian space agency.

Praising the aerospace startup, Nilekani told TOI, "Team Indus is pursuing a big hairy audacious goal. I invested in Team Indus as I believe in their audacious mission to reach and land on the moon."

Confirming the use of PSLV service for the Team Indus project, Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar told TOI, "Team Indus has signed an agreement with Antrix (Isro's commercial arm) for using the launch service of PSLV."

Explaining the difference between the two missions, the Isro chairman said, "Both the missions are scientifically and technically totally different.

Even the instruments used in the two spacecrafts will be different. There is no question of any comparison." Kiran Kumar wished Team Indus "all the best for the mission". Besides Team Indus, a US team (Moon Express), an Israeli team (SpaceIL) and an international team (Synergy Moon) have also procured launch contracts.

While Team Indus is using the service of PSLV to take its 600-kg baby spacecraft to the lunar orbit, Isro will use its heavylift rocket GSLV Mk II for the mission. Dr K Sivan, director of Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, told TOI, "Unlike the 2008 Chandrayaan-1 mission when PSLV rocket was used for carrying the spacecraft, this time Isro is planning to take a heavier payload (combined launch mass: 3,250 kg) comprising orbiter, lander and rover to the moon. Therefore, GSLV Mk II is the preferred choice."


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