NEW DELHI -- India will try to land on the moon this year, after a previous attempt failed just minutes before a scheduled touchdown on the lunar surface, in a bid to restore its credentials as an ambitious space power.
The South Asian nation's Chandrayaan-3 mission to the moon will consist of a lander and a rover, and will use inputs from an orbiter from the previous mission, K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, said in Bengaluru on Wednesday. It has also made progress on India's first manned space mission by identifying four astronauts, he added.
India and China are both trying to establish a presence in space exploration. While China was the first country to land a rover on the far side of the moon, India had aimed to become the first to the southern pole, the same spot NASA is targeting in 2024 with its Artemis mission. The $1.4 billion Gaganyaan mission -- which plans to launch a module with astronauts by 2022, taking them on a seven-day voyage around the Earth -- will make India only the fourth nation to send humans to space.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sharpened India's focus on space since coming to power in 2014, with a pipeline of ambitious programs, including planned missions to study the sun and Venus, before eventually establishing its own space station. Apart from space-faring nations, billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson are competing in an unofficial space race, from launching satellites to sending astronauts and tourists into space.
The previous mission, which intended to analyze virgin territory on the moon, placed an orbiter around the Earth's closest neighbor before the lander lost contact with scientists. NASA, with the help of an Indian mechanical engineer Shanmuga Subramanian, located the crashed spacecraft last month.
Other plans for the year include a maiden flight of a new, small-satellite launch vehicle this year, Sivan said, a move that will strengthen India's position as the go-to destination for low-cost launches with a capacity to place more than 100 satellites in orbit in a single mission.
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