NEW DELHI – India’s second lunar exploration mission – Chandrayaan-2, to be launched during the next two to three years – will be completely indigenous, the country’s top scientist says.

“There have been significant changes in the planned configuration for Chandrayaan-2,” says A. S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). “Originally, the lander was supposed to come from Russia. Now we are developing our own technology. So it will be completely an indigenous system.”

Chandrayaan-2 was originally envisioned to be a joint mission between ISRO and Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency. But after the failure of the Russian-led interplanetary mission Phobos-Grant three years ago, the Russian agency rethought its participation.

Consequently, India conducted a study in May 2012 that concluded India could proceed with a homegrown mission and develop a lander module.

At the moment, Chandrayaan-2 preparations “are in full swing” at various ISRO units, says M. Chandra Dathan, director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC), an ISRO center in Thiruvananthapuram in south India. “The launch target is sometime in 2017-18,” he says.

The launch will take place with the heavier version of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
Chandrayaan, the Sanskrit word for Moon craft, is designed to explore lunar soil at as far a distance away from the landing site as possible, and to confirm the presence of water.

India’s first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008, released a probe that helped confirm the existence of water on the Moon. The mission operated until August 2009, when an abrupt malfunction cut off its communications.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission aims to use and test various new technologies and conduct new experiments.