Russian lander for Chandrayaan-2

The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) will provide a lander for the Chandrayaan-2 joint Russian-Indian lunar mission, which will be tested on the larger and closer of Mars’ two moons, Phobos. The launch vehicle and a lunar rover will be produced in India, Roscosmos deputy head Anatoly Shilov told reporters in Bangalore, India on Friday.

Roscosmos and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) initially planned to send two lunar rovers to Phobos: One bigger (Russian) and one smaller (Indian). Yet this proved too costly, and the programme was revised, leaving only one Indian rover.

The new plan for Chandrayaan-2 (or Luna-Resurs, as it is known at Roscosmos) foresees India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) taking an orbital module to the Moon, with a Russian-made lander (designed by the Lavochkin Science & Production Association) carrying a small Indian rover on board.

The mission is aimed at exploring lunar soil at as far a distance away from the landing site as possible, and confirming the presence of water there, Shilov said from Bangalore, where he attended the Bengaluru Space Expo 2010.

Before the Russian lander takes to the Moon, its Fobos-Grunt analogue will be sent to Phobos at the end of 2011.

“We have to examine this vehicle before including it in the Indian lunar mission,” Shilov said.

The Fobos-Grunt’s lander was designed by the Lavochkin Science & Production Association. It can explore the soil at the landing site, but it cannot move along the surface. The machine has three mechanical arms for taking soil samples. One of them can lift rocky soil samples and place them on an analyzer, while the second can collect dust samples and the third is equipped for drilling. Chemical composition data on soil samples obtained this way will be sent back to Earth.

FROM MOON EXPLORATION TO DEVELOPMENT

Shilov says that data on water molecules in lunar soil will allow researchers to move forward with Moon development plans. “We are now considering moving from exploring the Moon to developing it,” he stated.

The development of the Moon, including the construction of bases and mineral production, is only possible should it contain water, which can be used, among other things, to generate oxygen and hydrogen fuel for refuelling rockets.

“The presence of water in some form has already been established, and Chandrayaan-2 should confirm this,” Shilov said.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission is not enough to start lunar-base construction. At least three other research vehicles, in addition to the Indian one, are needed for that. They would verify the amount of water by taking soil samples back to Earth.

“We will discuss it with the United States,” Shilov added.

India launched its first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, in 2008. Though Chandrayaan broke down earlier than expected, it was able to bring back valuable information to Earth on the presence of water molecules in lunar soil.

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