India’s space exploration mission is all set to touch new heights. Hundreds of space scientists are working on an ambitious project to put a robotic rover on the moon in April. By far the most ambitious space mission, Chandrayaan-II will be launched from the Sriharikota space port. India will become the fourth country in the world, after the United States, Russia and China, to soft-land spacecraft on the lunar surface. It will be truly a global event and a huge achievement for Isro. The international space community has widely acknowledged the stellar role played by India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, launched in 2008. It is credited with discovering the presence of water molecules on the parched lunar surface in 2009. The finding has been a great contribution by India to the understanding of the lunar environment. The Rs 800-crore Chandrayaan-II, with myriad scientific capabilities, will throw up data that may open new possibilities of future habitation on the moon. There are tantalising possibilities of a human outpost on the moon in the future and India is already investing in its human spaceflight programme. The project aims at putting an orbiter around the moon, from which a lander and a rover would detach and reach the yet-to-be-explored southern side of the lunar surface. The mission would be a challenging task because landings in thin atmosphere and low gravity can be very tricky.
The credit for India finding a rightful place at the global high table of space-faring nations must go to the committed scientists at Isro. From using a creaking, old bullock-cart to transport a new satellite to the launch station in 1981 to a record-setting launch of 100 satellites on a single rocket last year, Isro has come a long way. Its arduous journey has come to symbolise the triumph of self-reliance over technology denials. For decades, export controls on strategic technologies were used by the developed world to prevent India from developing missile or nuclear technology. Now, India is on the other side of the table, having established its niche strengths. The success of Chandrayaan-I and Mars mission has put India in a commanding position to take the space exploration to the next level and embark on manned missions. Now, Chandrayaan-II spacecraft, which weighs three tonnes and carries 13 scientific instruments, will break a new ground in that it will land on moon’s South Pole, a rocky terrain not explored so far. It will analyse the soil and look for moonquakes while mapping lunar resources. This unmanned mission will reinforce India’s capabilities and supremacy in the world in the area of space exploration.