Chandrayaan-3, Indian Lunar Mission Delayed Or Indefinitely Postponed?

The launch date of Chandrayaan-3, India’s ambitious mission to complete the nation’s first lunar landing is likely to be delayed due to COVID-19. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has also been shut since the nationwide lockdown which has directly impacted the Chandraayan-3 program.

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Undeterred by the crashing of Vikram moon lander in 2019, ISRO had announced earlier this year that it will launch Chandraayan-3.

The latest lunar mission will reportedly cost 6.15 billion rupees, or about $91.2 million at current exchange rates making it considerably less expensive than Chandrayaan-2, which was priced at 9.7 billion rupees ($136.1 million). ISRO is planning for landing at the same location as the Chandrayaan-2 crash site.

The older mission (Chandrayaan-2) featured an orbiter as well as a lander and rover, which explains the higher price tag. Chandraayaan-3 doesn’t need an orbiter since the Chandrayaan-II orbiter remains in good condition and should continue to operate for years to come, ISRO officials have confirmed.

A successful Chandraayan-3 soft landing on the surface of the moon will see India joining China, United States and Russia in the elite list of countries to have achieved this feat.

Chandrayaan-3 Launch Date Delayed?

However, due to the global pandemic, ISRO is facing a possible delay in its third lunar mission. K Sivan, ISRO Chairman, spoke about the impact COVID-19 has had on the organization in an interview last month.

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He said that that all research and development and manufacturing were at a standstill, and only the work that is possible was either being done from home or via video calling.

Sivan also said the situation can only be fully assessed after the lockdown ends.‘’We cannot take any decision at this stage. We will have to wait for the lockdown to be lifted,” he said

The lockdown is not the only reason for the possible delay of Chandrayaan-3. With the country pouring all available funds into dealing with the economic impact of the pandemic, there might be a reassessment of what is essential in the current scenario.

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Experts speaking to the EurAsian Times believe that any costly expenditure in the near future that is not meant for public relief or boosting the economy will draw criticism from the public. Hence it would be in the best interest to put any current plans on hold which could also mean a possible deferment of the Chandrayaan-3 while suspension looks unlikely.

Apart from Chandrayaan-3, the outbreak has thrown ISRO’s other plans in a limbo too. The organization had also planned around 24 additional launches including Gangayan flight (in December 2020 and India’s first solar probe, Aditya in the summer.

Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft that aims to send 3 astronauts to space for a minimum of 7 days by 2022, as part of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.

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Chandrayaan-3 – India’s Second Attempt

Chandrayaan-3 will be India’s second attempt to land on the moon. Last year India successfully launched Chandrayaan-2 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, aboard a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket.

The main objective was to circle the moon and provide information about its surface. Unfortunately, the Vikram moon lander crashed and lost contact with the scientists.

India refuses to see the crash of the Vikram moon lander as a failure and says it has a lot to learn from it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his country’s space scientists he was proud of a programme that had come so near to putting a probe on the Moon. The best is yet to come in our space programme. India is with you,” he said.

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Similar views were shared by Union Minister Jitendra Singh, as reported by the EurAsian Times earlier,  who felt it was wrong to term Chandrayaan-2 as a disappointment since it was India’s first attempt to land on the lunar surface and no country was successful in their first attempt.

India’s reignited interest in space under PM Modi stems from China’s increasing extraterrestrial capabilities besides the economic revenues it can bring with it. Space diplomacy is the way forward in international relations and India seems to be already on the right trajectory.