New Delhi: India’s space capabilities are not inferior to those of China and with Chandrayaan-2, the country will reach the lunar south pole, which has never been explored, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman K. Sivan said on Friday, just days after China’s rover made its touchdown on the far side of the moon.
Chandrayaan-2, which has been delayed several times since the initial date for launch last April, is set for launch this April. The landing of the craft near the lunar south pole would be historically significant as it would give Isro the opportunity to name that site on the moon.
“It is a very important mission and we felt the robustness of satellite needs to be improved. So the Lander part was re-configured and tested. This could not be completed before January and so the next slot is April," Sivan said at a press meet in New Delhi. Isro is also racing against time to prepare for the Gaganyaan mission, which will be the first manned space mission to be undertaken by the country.
“We are no less than China in terms of our space capabilities. It is just that they have already undertaken a human space mission...With Gaganyaan, that will be done," said Sivan. He ruled out plans to send animals to space and said “humanoids" will be used for the first and second unmanned missions, in December 2020 and July 2021, respectively, before the launch of a manned mission in December 2021.
“Our target this year is to develop the human rating of the launch vehicle to ensure the safety of the astronauts during the space flight. The design of the orbital module has to be completed and tested. Foremost, we need to select the crew for the mission and start their training," he said.
The space agency also opened its doors to students and announced that it will launch the Young Scientists Programme. Three students above Class VIII would be selected from every state and Union territory for a one-month training at Isro, under this programme. During this period, they would be exposed to various space research activities and would be engaged in building small satellites.
Isro is also set to launch , on 24 January, Kalamsat. This is a small satellite named after former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam that was made by students from Chennai and will be carried by a new variant, PSLV 44.
“After the launch of a satellite, the PSLV four stage turns into debris. We wanted to make this an experimental platform to give an opportunity to students to carry out their experiments. As a first step, we decided to launch Kalamsat for the coming PSLV44 launch," Sivan said.
The ISRO chairman urged students to come forward with their scientific projects. “Students need not worry about launching their mini satellites, but should focus on doing experiments in space. If any student across the country has a satellite, get in touch, we will launch. Just bring your payloads. We will plug them into the satellite. Just focus on the science experiment," he said.
Sivan also highlighted the insufficient manpower in the organisation, which has 32 missions lined up for this year. “We want to utilise the potential of our young scientists across the country. Therefore, six incubation centres would be set up, one each in NITs in Tripura, Jalandhar, Nagpur, Trichi, Rourkela, and Indore, where students from the institute can carry out research activities. Isro would give the problems and we will buy the innovative technologies developed," he said.