| The 32-metre indigenous deep space network antenna (foreground) and a German-made 18-metre antenna at Byalalu near Bangalore. Bangalore News Photos
Bangalore, Dec. 16: In four years, India plans to land robotic equipment on the moon that will drill the icy lunar surface and explore it for minerals and fuel sources.
The orbiter of Chandrayaan 2, Indian Space Research Organisation’s second moon mission scheduled for 2011-12, will be sending down the robotic lander, now being developed by Russia.
Chandrayaan-1 project director M. Annadurai told reporters the second mission would be a two-week probe unlike Chandrayaan-1, which is a two-year mission to orbit the moon.
One of the exercises involved in the Chandrayaan-1, scheduled for next April, is to send down an impacter to assess whether it strikes a pre-determined location. An impacter is less sophisticated than a lander and just crashes on the surface of a planet or moon.
In Chandrayaan-2, this impacter will be improvised into an equipment-bearing soft-lander that will drill and conduct scientific studies over a 100km radius on the lunar surface, preferably close to one of the moon’s poles.
Annadurai said there would be no need for the probe to collect and bring back samples from the lunar surface. “Today’s technology allows us to analyse the data collected by the robotic lander sitting right here in our offices.”
The robotic probe will send the data through an indigenously built 32-metre deep space network (DSN) antenna, which Isro has installed at Byalalu, 32km from Bangalore.
Annadurai was speaking yesterday at the Byalalu station, where a second DSN antenna, too, has been installed. The 18-metre antenna is German-built and tracks probes up to 100,000km from Earth — that is, satellites.
The 32-metre antenna, however, has a reach beyond that and will be tracking the Chandrayaan-1 mission, involving a distance of 400,000km. Annadurai said the indigenous antenna is ready for performance tests.
Isro plans to approach Nasa and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) soon to allow the Byalalu station to track their on-mission deep space probes, Mars Express and Kaguya.
In future, Isro plans to offer telemetry (automatic measurement and transmission of data from remote sources) and tracking services for foreign deep space probes, said S.K. Shivakumar, director of the Isro Telemetry Tracking and Command network.
Shivakumar said the one-time investment of Rs 100 crore for the DSN station and antenna, included in the Chandrayaan-1 project cost of Rs 386 crore, would be useful even for future Indian missions into deep space.
He said images and data received from Chandrayaan-like missions would be stored at the Indian Space Science Data Centre, also to be housed at the Byalalu station.
While the first moon mission involves collaboration with the US, the European Space Agency and Japan, the second mission will be jointly conducted with Russia.