Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a book launch on Wednesday, ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said that they had received payload proposals from several countries, but the decision to take payloads would be based on scientific requirements.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission to the moon is looking at a 2013 launch and is expected to carry a lander and a rover which will be carrying the payloads. He said a scientific committee, chaired by former ISRO Chairman U R Rao was looking at requirements and possibilities of learning from the Chandrayaan 1 experiment.
Radhakrishnan revealed that the mass of the payloads collectively would not be exceeding 50 kgs and that the committee would decide which of the experiments conducted onboard Chandrayaan 1 would be repeated in the later version.
Hinting at the possibility of a unmanned Mars mission in the coming years, he said that there were three slots available. “There are three opportune years, but we have to finally decide what instruments we are going to carry, what is the science that you are trying to understand and then build a spacecraft.” The ‘opportune’ years, according to him, were 2013, 2016 and 2018. “We also have a long journey to reach Mars. We have to finalise the kind of propulsion that we need. It will take a minimum of six months to reach there,” he added.
Responding to a question from a student on manned space flight, Radhakrishnan responded that the challenge lay in designing a spacecraft that could go into space, allow the astronauts to survive the harsh environment and bring them back. A crew module, an escape system for astronauts and a reliable launch vehicle were all needed to make this a reality, he said.
ISRO had earlier announced plans to send two astronauts into space by 2016 and Rs 95 crore has already been sanctioned towards this endeavour. Land has already been acquired near Devanahalli for setting up an astronaut training facility and a third launch pad is being built at Sriharikota for this purpose. “In four to seven years, we should be able to do this in steps”, he answered. The developmental flight for the GSLV Mark III is likely in two months time and ISRO’s chairman said that a date is likely to be set next week.
Mission Moon: Exploring the Moon with Chandrayaan 1, authored by honorary advisor to ISRO, S K Das takes a look at ISRO’s planning, execution of Chandrayaan 1 and discovery of water on the lunar surface. A book primarily aimed at young readers, it is intended to serve a starting to point to build their own careers, according to former ISRO chairman U R Rao. Speaking at the launch, Rao said that the next 20 years would see significant exploration in space.
He touched upon the possibility of building colonies on Moon and creating habitats using tunnels that were mapped by satellites.