With the US lifting sanctions on ISRO, a top NASA laboratory has approached the Indian space agency with a proposal to collaborate for a moon mission aimed at getting back a kilogram of rocks from the lunar surface.
The iconic Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which has sent missions to Mars and Venus, wants ISRO to put a satellite around the moon which will be a link between its lunar lander probe and the earth.
"The mission is similar to the Chandrayaan-I mission. JPL has asked ISRO to put a satellite around the moon," ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said here. The Space Commission, India's apex space policy body, has given ISRO the go-ahead to partner with JPL for the project named 'Moon Rise' which could be launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under its New Frontiers Programme announced in 2009.
As part of the project, JPL plans to drop a robotic lander into a basin at the moon's south pole to send lunar rocks back to Earth for study.
The mission, if selected, would be launched in 2016. The 400-500 kg satellite is being planned to have a life of up to five years and could also carry some scientific experiments of ISRO, Radhakrishnan said.
He said the proposal was an outcome of India-US cooperation announced during the visit of President Barack Obama to India last year. He said India's contribution to the project could amount to about 150 million dollars.
The mission is part of a joint proposal with JPL which will be put up before NASA. "We will take forward the proposal and work out a detail plan once NASA selects the proposal," Radhakrishnan said.
NASA has selected three proposals as candidates for the agency's next space venture to another celestial body in the solar system. The final project selected in mid-2011 may provide a better understanding of Earth's formation or perhaps the origin of life on Earth.