The third phase of India's mission to the moon, Chandrayaan 3, will aim for a launch by 2021, the chairman of the country's space agency said in a press conference today. "The government has approved the Chandrayaan 3 project. It will be based on the Chandrayaan 2. Work on the project is going on smoothly," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K Sivan told reporters.
He said ISRO plans to launch at least 25 space missions in 2020.
India's first attempt to land on the Moon last year may have gone off-script but the Chandrayaan 2 mission has been far from a flop. With a mission life of at least seven years, the Chandrayaan 2 lunar orbiter remains in operation and will continue to study the moon from afar, carrying out experiments to map the surface and study the moon's outer atmosphere.
The Chandrayaan 2 mission stood out because of its low cost of about $140 million.
"We have made good progress on Chandrayaan 2. Even though we could not land successfully, the orbiter is still functioning. It's going to function for the next seven years to produce science data," Mr Sivan said today.
He said land acquisition for a second space port is going on in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi.
"In 2019 our strategy mainly was expansion. We wanted to expand ISRO horizontally. The second strategy adopted in 2019 was capacity building on outreach programme. The third is reduction of the physical work in ISRO. We have also constituted a Gaganyaan advisory committee," Mr Sivan said.
Launched in July 2019, the Chandrayaan 2 had successfully completed earth and moon orbits and was all set to execute a controlled landing on the lunar south pole, a previously unexplored region, when the lander lost contact.
Of the 38 soft-landing attempts made on the moon, only about half have succeeded. In April 2019, Israel attempted to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface, only to fail in the final moments. India had hoped its Chandrayaan 2 mission would make it the fourth nation to land on the moon after the United States, Russia and China.