Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman S. Somanath on March 22, said the launch of Chandrayaan-3, India's third lunar mission, and the first solar mission Aditya L1 will possibly happen by the middle of 2023.
He was delivering the inaugural talk on "Indian Capabilities for Space and Planetary Exploration" at the 4th Indian Planetary Science Conference organised at Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) here.
"The Chandrayaan-3 craft is fully ready. It is fully integrated. Of course, there is some correction work being done, and we are building a lot of confidence in the mission through lots of simulations and tests, etc. And possibly the launch can take place by the middle of this year," Mr. Somanath said.
He said Aditya-L1, India’s first solar mission, is going to be “a very unique solar observation capability for which instruments have already been delivered, and ISRO is in the process of integrating them in the satellite.
"I am also eagerly waiting for this (Aditya-L1) launch to happen, possibly by the middle of this year, and I am sure we will make this mission a great success," said Mr. Somanath, who is also Secretary of the Department of Space. According to ISRO, Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-on mission to Chandrayaan-2 to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface. It consists of the Lander and Rover configuration.
“Primary objective — a precise landing”
Speaking on the Chandrayaan-3 mission, Mr. Somanath said it would have a similar structure as that of Chandrayaan-2, with the orbiter, a lander and a rover. "Of course, the orbiter is devoid of all those payloads that are there in Chandrayaan-2. It will have only a little bit of payload. But the primary objective is to take the lander to the orbit of the moon and make it land.
"The primary objective of Chandrayaan-3 is going to be a precise landing. For that, a lot of work is being done today, including building new instruments, building better algorithms, taking care of the failure modes, etc.," he said.
Mr. Somanath said these aspects of the mission are currently being strengthened, with the scientific objectives remaining more or less the same as with the previous lunar missions.
"But of course, we have taken a lot of care in terms of qualifying them for Chandrayaan-3. Let's hope that this time Chandrayaan-3 will do its right job of landing, and of course, the rover coming out and doing exploration at least on the lunar day on the surface of the moon, which is really going to be very interesting," he said.
On Aditya L1
Regarding Aditya L1, he said it will go up to the Lagrangian Point L1, a vantage point to observe the Sun continuously without disturbance over a long period of time.
"And this is going to be a very unique solar observation capability that we are building. Instruments for this have already been delivered, and we are in the process of integrating these instruments in the satellite," the ISRO chief said.
He said the instruments to be used are currently undergoing testing for integration with the satellite.
"Other payloads have their unique capability in terms of observing not only the Sun but also the particle emissions and measuring them while it travels from the Sun to earth, and how Sun is affecting our space weather," he said.
Mission to moon with Japanese agency?
Mr. Somanath said ISRO has successfully done significant collaborations on its space missions and is also discussing a possible mission to the moon with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Mr. Somanath also said there is a good opportunity to launch a mission to explore planet Venus by 2028.
The ISRO chief said it was important to have a connection between scientific institutions across the world and ISRO in building complex missions. He cited the example of the TRISHNA mission, designed to observe the earth’s surface in the thermal infrared domain, which has been developed by ISRO and its French counterpart CNES.
“We are also discussing a possible mission to the moon with JASA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) where the land rover will be built by them and they will launch it using a Japanese rocket,” he said.
He said ISRO will look at possible engagement with other agencies in exploratory missions.
Talking about the ambitious “Gaganyaan” project — which envisages demonstration of human spaceflight capability by launching a crew of three to an orbit of 400 km for a three-day mission and bringing them back safely to earth — the ISRO chairman said it was going on very well.
This project gives a lot of opportunities to conduct experiments on board, with possibilities like micro-gravity, space mining, material testing, and space-based observations.
“We need to work on this and come up with scientific goals through the Gaganyaan programme. Sending a man up there is one part, but doing something very meaningful is something we are all looking at,” he said.
A mission to Venus
Mr. Somanath informed discussions are underway for ISRO’s proposed mission to Venus.
“Venus is a very challenging planet to explore and there is a good opportunity to launch it by 2028,” he said, adding there is a lot of interest in the science community to make use of the capability in this mission.
“I am very sure that we will take it up further,” he added.
Mr. Somanath said ISRO will seek further approval for DISHA payloads and will look at the possibility of landing a mission to Mars a few years from now.