With the first unmanned lunar mission on its way to the moon, Indian space agency ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is now gearing up for the sequel, Chandrayaan-2.
The second unmanned mission to the moon, estimated to cost around $84 million, will try and place a lander or a lunar rover on the moon. The mission will be a joint venture with Russia, and will launch in 2011-12.
While ISRO will provide the three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), with a cryogenic upper stage, to place the rover on the moon's surface, the Russion will provide the rover. ISRO and Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) had signed an agreement on joint lunar research and exploration.
G Madhavan Nair, chairman, ISRO, and A Perminov, director, Roskosmos signed the agreement in Moscow on 12 November 2007 during the visit of prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh to Russia.
ISRO will have the prime responsibility for the orbiter and Roskosmos will be responsible for the rover. A few scientific instruments from other space agencies may also be accommodated on the mission.
According to Chandrayaan-1 project director, M Annadurai, ISRO will look for a soft landing for Chandrayaan-2, instead of a hard landing. He also said that India would be working on technologies required to form a moon base by 2020.
Referring to the anticipated lunar outpost, Annadurai said if India's vision to be a developed country by 2020 were to be fulfilled, then work on these technologies would be crucial.
The Russian rover will deploy a robotic arm to collect samples and conduct an in situ analysis of the moon's soil.
In its fourth orbit-raising manoeuvre for the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, ISRO will today further raise the earth orbit of India's first lunar spacecraft to 267,000 kilometres.
Mars could be the next halt for ISRO after Chandrayaan-2. ISRO's Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre's projects director S Ramakrishnan has also been quoted by the media as saying that the Mars probe studies have started, and that the GSLV was capable of putting a 1,000 kilogramme spacecraft into Martian orbit.