Russia and India to Fly Lunar Mission
India's Chandrayaan-1 is an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) mission designed to orbit the Moon over a two year period. Packed with an international suite of science instruments, the orbiter is headed for a late 2007-2008 launch. Image
Credit: Dan Roam

MOSCOW – India and Russia have signed a lunar exploration agreement calling on the countries to jointly develop a robotic orbiter and lander that would launch together in 2013.

The accord was signed Monday in Moscow by Anatoly Perminov, director of the Russian Space Agency, or Roskosmos, and Gopalan Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

"This is a very interesting project," Perminov said in a press release posted Nov. 12 on the Roskosmos Web site. "Russia and India will be developing a spacecraft jointly."

According to an ISRO statement released today, the new moon lander will be dubbed Chandrayaan-2. India?s first lunar probe, the Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, is slated to launch in April 2008, ISRO officials said.

The lunar lander would include a research laboratory and a rover, according to the Roskosmos press release. Both the lander and orbiter would be integrated as a single payload to be launched by India's Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle, the press release said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin singled out the accord during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Moscow on Monday.

"We plan to continue our cooperation in such high-tech spheres, as telecommunications and exploration of space," Putin told reporters during a joint press conference with Singh, according to the Kremlin's official Web site.

Meanwhile, ISRO officials said preparations for the launch of Chandrayaan-1 are going well. The moon orbiter is set to launch atop an Indian-built Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and carry at least two NASA instruments to explore the lunar surface.

Chandrayaan-1 will also carry a Moon Impact Probe to demonstrate the technology required for pinpoint lunar landings, ISRO officials said Wednesday. staff writer Tariq Malik contributed to this report from New York City.