The developed world is asking India for a second free ride to the Moon.
Space scientists from major players like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA, a consortium of 17 space-faring nations) want room for their gadgets on Chandrayaan-II, scheduled for a flight in 2012.
They are reportedly buoyed by the performance instruments onboard Chandrayaan-I, and would like to load the next generation equipment onboard the second Indian mission to the Moon.
They have requested Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to cart these payloads for more research on mineral composition of the lunar soil and to address larger issues such as evolution of the solar system. Informal discussions were held with Indian space scientists in this regard during the two-day conference organised to mark 100 days of Chandrayaan-I in space.
“We have started those discussions. In fact, we have an instrument that is well-suited for the rover. We call it the mini M-3 (pronounced as mini M cube). We are keen to pursue it,” said Prof. Carlie Pieters, Principal Investigator for NASA payload, and a professor at Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, USA.
Dr Paul Spudis, too, would like to return with a new set of instruments. Dr Spudis is the head of the team working to chart the poles and scout for water ice in lunar craters and a senior lunar scientist at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. He told HT, “Most definitely, we are interested in Chandrayaan-II. After mapping the poles, we need to look at the inner face for future landing missions. To land at the poles is very difficult and very challenging. We want to profile this region in good detail.”
Scientists from Europe too are looking for space for their devices. “We are keen to continue this relationship. We are looking forward to some exciting data and I think something big is going to happen because of the high quality instrumentation onboard the spacecraft,” said Dr Urs Mall of Max Plank Institute, Germany.
Dr Christian Erd, Project Manager of Science payloads (Chandrayaan-I) of European Space Agency agrees. “We are open for collaboration. I foresee that European science institutes, who build instrumentation as part of their activities, will stay involved in future collaborations,” he said.
“It’s working quite successfully and therefore they want to join us in the next mission. The Russian space scientists are expected to be here by month end. Then we will start working on the design and payloads,” said Dr Mylswamy Annadurai, Project Director, Chandrayaan-I.
The second lunar mission would be more advanced with three elements — an orbiter, a lander and a rover.