In DepthSPACE EXPLORATION

India plans to land near moon's south pole

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Science  02 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6375, pp. 503-504
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6375.503

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Summary

Sometime this summer, an Indian spacecraft orbiting over the moon's far side will release a lander. The craft will ease to a soft landing just after lunar sunrise on an ancient, table-flat plain about 600 kilometers from the south pole. There, it will unleash a rover into territory never before explored at the surface. That's the ambitious vision for India's second voyage to the moon in a decade, due to launch in the coming weeks. If Chandrayaan-2 is successful, it will pave the way for even more ambitious Indian missions, such as landings on Mars and an asteroid, as well as a Venus probe. Lunar scientists have much at stake, too. Chandrayaan-2 will collect data on the moon's thin envelope of plasma, as well as isotopes such as helium-3, a potential fuel for future fusion energy reactors. And it will follow up on a stunning discovery by India's first lunar foray, which found water molecules on the moon in 2009.

  • With reporting by Katie Langin.