More than a decade after Chandrayaan-1, and at a time of renewed global interest in lunar science, India will start its second trip to the Moon from the Sriharikota spaceport at 2.51am on Monday.
While a successful mission will mark multiple firsts for India, the attempt is seen as the country’s next step in the international space race as it vies to rub shoulders with giants like the United States, Russia and China.
In the 10 years between Chandrayaan-1 and Chandrayaan-2, China has landed on the Moon multiple times, the latest being ‘Chang’e 4’ that touched down on the far side of the Moon in January, a first for any country.
While keeping its eyes firmly on Mars, Nasa is also working on the Artemis programme that may use GPS while orbiting the Moon before putting humans there again. Isro missed multiple launch windows in 2018 and one in January 2019, which would have made it the first to soft-land on Moon’s south polar region. Chandrayaan-2 will ride aboard a GSLV-MkIII.
The actual achievements will come 52 days later, when it lands on the lunar surface. The Rs 978-crore mission involves an orbiter around the Moon, a lander (Vikram) and a rover (Pragyan).
Its success, Isro chairman K Sivan says, will make India the fourth nation to land a probe on Moon. Most of Nasa landings were in the equatorial region, while Chang’e 4 landed near the south polewhere India boldly goes now.
Discovery of water molecules by an instrument carried by Chandrayaan-1 has given a boost to hopes of finding water in a more thorough manner in the second mission.
Chandrayaan-2, a project cleared in September 2008 by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will also try to understand the history of early solar system, and learn secrets of Earth’s formation.