Indian ISRO, Japanese JAXA Join Hands For Joint Moon Mission – ‘Lunar Polar Exploration’

Indian and Japanese space agencies ISRO and JAXA have joined hands for joint moon mission called ‘Lunar Polar Exploration’ mission which aims to bolster ties between India and Japan and counter the Chinese ambitions in outer space. 

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Details of the joint Indian-Japanese lunar mission have been revealed for the first time. The Joint Lunar Polar Exploration (LPE) mission aims to put a lander and rover on the surface of the moon with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) leading the lander development.

As per information revealed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Lunar Polar Exploration will be launched after 2023. Diagrams released by the JAXA show that the Japanese would be building the overall landing module and the rover, while scientists from ISRO would be handling the lander development.

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The primary aim of the mission is to obtain real data regarding the quantity of water from in areas where water is predicted to exist. It also seeks to understand the distribution, conditions, form and other parameters of the lunar water resources in the polar regions.

A project-team established earlier this year is currently working on developing a comprehensive management plan for the collaborative mission including investigating the spacecraft system requirements and the different interface specifications in collaboration with ISRO.

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The joint mission will be launched from Japan using the H3 rocket, manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The investigation and observational points with unique environmental and geological conditions will be selected prior to landing. The lander will land at a location near the investigation area that has long sun-light hours and deploy the rover.

The rover will then observe the moon surface and will also observe areas 2m below the surface to check for possible water resources.  According to JAXA, the ISRO developed rover will conduct an observation of the chemical elements present in areas where water may be presently distributed. If it detects hydrogen, the rover will then mine the surface to collect samples.

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ISRO- India’s prized possession 

The joint mission with Japan adds another feather in the cap for the Indian organization. ISRO has won praise for its work from scientists and people all across the world.

Last year India successfully launched Chandrayaan-II 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 at ISRO.

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Undeterred from the crashing of Vikram moon lander in 2019, ISRO had announced earlier this year that it will launch Chandraayan III. The latest 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 cost 9.7 billion rupees ($136.1 million).

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. However, these plans have been left in limbo due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

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As for the Lunar Polar Exploration Mission, both India and Japan were keen to collaborate and talks first began in 2017 at a multi-space agency meeting in Bangalore. Since then, the project has only moved forward and was even discussed during Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan in 2018.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, India’s reignited interest in space prepares it for space diplomacy, a theme gaining momentum globally. Partnering with Tokyo not only strengthens India-Japan relations but sends a clear message to China.

Written by- Armaan Srivastava