Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.
- John Steinbeck
India plans to have its own space station in the near future as the country’s apex space agency develops a three-pronged approach to expanding its presence in the outer skies. The approach focuses on continuous launch of advanced satellites, missions to other planetary bodies, and having an Indian in space in own spacecraft. At a time when India is preparing for one of its most ambitious projects, the manned space mission Gaganyaan, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has stunned the scientific community world over by announcing plans to set up a separate space station over the next five to seven years. Significantly, this will be separate from the International Space Station (ISS) already orbiting the Earth. A space station is a spacecraft in orbit around the Earth which serves as a base for astronauts and cosmonauts to carry out scientific experiments. This is indeed a big announcement, one that comes only a day after the space agency declared the date for the launch of its other challenging mission, Chandrayaan-2. It needs to be accepted that with excellence in frontline research, ISRO has step by step, yielded fruitful results. It demonstrated its capabilities to launch all kinds of satellites, and delivered close to 300 payloads of foreign countries in space in the last 12 years.
Among other plans, ISRO is planning a mission to the Sun’s orbit and another to planet Venus. The space agency also announced the Aditya L1 mission, which would orbit around the Sun to study its corona. The mission to Venus is part of ISRO’s plan to study the inner solar system under which it sent its own space orbitor around Mars. By September, India will become the fourth nation to land on the Moon with its Chandrayaan-2 mission, which will be launched on July 15. Its lander (Vikram) and rover (Pragyan) will touch down on the moon’s surface either on September 5 or 6. There no denying that it will be a daring attempt to land on the near side of the moon close to its south pole. ISRO expects to continue its research on the presence of water and minerals on the Moon, after Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 released its Moon Impact Probe where it found debris that was analysed for the presence of water. This is perhaps an eagerly awaited mission not just by ISRO but the global scientific community in a bid to discover more water or minerals there.
It is hoped that not only will Chandrayaan-2 unravel deep mysteries of the moon, but it will also boost ties with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is a long-term objective of ISRO. After Chandrayaan-2, ISRO will shift its research and excellence eye towards Gaganyaan in order to send humans to space. Whether Chandrayaan-2 is a success or not remains to be seen, but the presence of India on the moon will send a powerful message about the world’s rising political and scientific power.