- Chandrayaan-2 lander named Vikram (valour), after the pioneer of Indian space programme Vikram Sarabhai, and the robotic rover that explores the lunar surface named Pragyan, (wisdom) will be launched on the Moon by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III within the following months. (Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MANJUNATH KIRAN | AFP | Getty Images
India is looking to take a giant leap in its space program and solidify its place among the worlds spacefaring nations with its second unmanned mission to the moon, this one aimed at landing a rover near the unexplored south pole.
The Indian Space Research Organization plans to launch a spacecraft using homegrown technology on Monday, and it is scheduled to touch down on the moon Sept. 6 or 7. The $141 million Chandrayaan-2 mission will analyze minerals, map the moons surface and search for water.
It will "boldly go where no country has ever gone before," ISRO said in a statement.
With India poised to become the worlds fifth-largest economy, the ardently nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to show off the countrys prowess in security and technology.
India successfully test-fired an anti-satellite weapon in March, which Modi said demonstrated the countrys capacity as a space power alongside the United States, Russia and China. India also plans to send humans into space by 2022, becoming only the fourth nation to do so.
The countrys ambitions are playing out amid a resurgent space race.
The U.S. — which is marking the 50th anniversary this month of the Apollo 11 mission that made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the first humans on the moon — is working to send a manned spacecraft to the lunar south pole by 2024. In April, an unmanned Israeli craft crashed into the moon in a failed attempt at the first privately funded lunar landing.
Decades of space research have allowed India to develop satellite, communications and remote sensing technologies that are helping solve everyday problems at home, from forecasting fish migration to predicting storms and floods.
Indias first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, whose name is Sanskrit for "moon craft," orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of water. In 2013-14, India put a satellite into orbit around Mars in the nations first interplanetary mission.
Some have questioned the expense in a country of 1.3 billion people with widespread poverty and one of the worlds highest child mortality rates. But author and economic commentator Gurcharan Das said that the cost of the second moonshot is small compared with Indias overall budget and that the project could have a multiplier effect on the economy.
He called on India to get the countrys private sector more involved in research and development, which he said could yield "huge benefits" beyond the realm of space travel.