India eyes third Moon mission, shortlists four for Gaganyaan.

• India will most likely launch Chandrayaan-3 and Gaganyaan without a crew this year, says Isro chairman

• ISRO’s mission to the Sun, Aditya-L1, to study the Sun’s corona, is lined up for this year

India is planning to make its third visit to the Moon, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman K. Sivan said on Wednesday.

The agency has also identified four astronauts for Gaganyaan, the country’s first human space flight set for launch in 2021, he said.

Sivan said “2020 is going to be the year for Chandrayaan-3 (the spacecraft for the third Moon mission) and for Gaganyaan (without a crew). The government has formally approved Chandrayaan-3 and we have begun the work. The project is going smoothly so far."

Isro’s mission to the Sun, Aditya-L1, to study Sun’s corona, which has major impact on the climate change on earth is also lined up for this year.

Sivan said the configuration of Chandrayaan-3 would be similar to Chandrayaan-2, except for the orbiter.

“We already have an orbiter around the Moon and it is successfully collecting data. So, we will use that. The new mission will only consist of a lander and a rover," the Isro chairman said.


India had launched its first expedition to the Moon, Chandrayaan-1, in October 2008 and gave the world evidence of water on the Moon.

The second mission, Chandrayaan-2 was meant to build on those experiments and demonstrate a successful touchdown on Moon. The ₹978-crore mission was launched on 22 July with an orbiter, lander Vikram, and rover Pragyan, aiming to land near the South Pole of the Moon. However, minutes before the scheduled touchdown on 7 September, scientists abruptly lost contact with the lander, which was later found to have made a hard landing on the lunar surface.

A successful landing would have made India the fourth nation, after Russia, the US, and China, to showcase the technology crucial for undertaking inter-planetary missions.

The third edition of Chandrayaan is driven by India’s ambition to successfully demonstrate its capabilities of making a soft landing on the Moon, which Chandrayaan-2 failed to achieve.

Wider exploration of the solar system is expected, especially manned missions. As such, the Moon could form the base for fuel, oxygen and other critical raw materials.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the US has announced its Artemis programme to get astronauts back on the Moon to ultimately reach for the Mars, even as the US and Russia plan to build individual lunar bases.

Sivan is optimistic about the Chandrayaan-3, though the second Moon mission did not make a soft landing on the Moon. The lander could not reduce its velocity on time during the final descent phase, resulting in the unexpected hard landing, he said.

“We have made good progress on Chandrayaan-2. Though we could not soft land successfully, the orbiter is still functioning and it’s going to function for the next seven years to produce scientific data," said the Isro chairman, who had hailed the mission as the toughest project ever undertaken by the agency.

Isro is also gearing up for Gaganyaan. “We have made good progress so far, but we have to complete several system tests before the flight, including human rating of the propulsion model and crew escape system, which need to be done this year," said Sivan.

The training for the four astronauts selected for the mission would begin in the third week of this month. “We aim to have the first unmanned flight of Gaganyaan in 2020. It will be an eventful year," said the Isro chief.

Current Affairs Home