The India Space Research Organization (Isro) plans to place a remote-controlled telescope on the surface of the Moon to improve its scientific observation capacity, the agency's chairman A S Kiran Kumar said.
Addressing students of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras this weekend, the Isro chief said, the lunar observatory, which is a follow-up of Isro's space telescope mission Astosat, will be launched by the end of 2017.
This will be a follow-on mission to Astrosat, Kumar announced at the second Dr APJ Abdul Kalam memorial lecture at IIT Madras.
The lunar telescope would operate much like a remote astronomical observatory near Leh in Ladakh, which is operated by personnel in Bengaluru. The lunar telescope, however, would also be monitored by personnel in West Virginia.
He said discussions are on with an international body which will help conduct the mission and said that further updates will be announced soon after the deal is finalized.
He said Isro engineers are looking into possibilities of operating this telescope and scientific observation capability similar to the one in Handley in West Virginia, US.
He said the Astrostat, a dedicated multiwavelength observatory, is helping Indian scientists to study black holes and neutron stars.
ISRO is also planning to launch a rover on the surface of the moon with its Chandrayan 2 mission. Isro will also practice manoeuvring of the spacecraft during an eclipse before launch by using its Mars orbiter.
Isro will use its latest GSLV Mark III launch vehicle to place the lunar observatory.
The new version of the rocket will be able to carry four-ton satellites into orbit. The Indian space agency is also planning to launch a solar probe, Aditya, to study the sun in 2018.
India and China have taken up plans to make lunar trips a staple of their space programs at a time when the US has abandoned plans to return to the moon's surface and opted instead for a manned Mars mission.