India is setting long-term goals that could see the country establish its own moon base before 2050.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman S. Somanath set out a provisional, integrated roadmap for exploring the moon in a Nov. 28 talk at a symposium organized by the Indian Society of Geomatics and the Indian Society of Remote Sensing. The plan would build on India's recent lunar achievements and progress in human spaceflight ambitions.
India became the fifth country to make a successful robotic moon landing this year with its Chandrayaan-3 mission. Following this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in October that India should aim for "new and ambitious goals," including putting astronauts on the moon by 2040.
S. Somanath’s roadmap builds around this new goal and sets out a near-term phase of technology buildup, focusing on the Gaganyaan human spaceflight plan, developing new launch vehicles and increasing robotic landing capabilities.
Indian Moon base in the 2040s? ISRO chairman S. Somanath gave a lecture at ISG-ISRS 2023, outlining an integrated lunar exploration roadmap with the long term plan of a lunar base around 2047. Reiterates plan announced last month for a crewed lunar landing by 2040. Ambitious. pic.twitter.com/GS4HU8BOizNovember 30, 2023
Outlined missions include the joint Indian-Japanese LUPEX rover and the Chandrayaan-4 lunar sample-return effort. Such work is envisioned to build up to a crewed docking with the NASA-led Gateway space station in lunar orbit, a crewed lunar landing, and, ultimately, a lunar base and a sustainable moon economy, based on minerals and tourism. A Next Generation Launch Vehicle (NGLV) would be developed to facilitate some of these missions. That new rocket will be partially reusable.
The plans are tentative but reveal the thinking of ISRO and are indicative of its long-term ambitions. More concretely, the agency is currently preparing test missions as a step to a crewed orbital mission with its Gaganyaan spacecraft.
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Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.