India will launch its second lunar mission on January 3 next year to land on the moon with a lander and rover, a top space official said on Sunday.
"We are aiming to launch the mission on January 3 next year, but the window to land on the lunar surface is open till March 2019," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K Sivan told reporters in Bengaluru.
The Rs 800-crore lunar mission named "Chandrayaan-2" comes over a decade after India went up to the lunar orbit in November 8, 2008 after "Chandrayaan-1" launch on October 22 onboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket from the spaceport in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The 3,890-kg Chandrayaan-2, which will be launched onboard the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-3, will orbit around the moon and study its lunar conditions to collect data on its topography, mineralogy and exosphere.
A lander with rover which will separate from the spacecraft will orbit the moon, and then gradually descend on the lunar surface at a designated spot. The rover's instruments will observe and study the lunar surface.
The lander has been named "Vikram" as a tribute to the pioneer of India's space programme and former ISRO chairman (1963-71), Vikram Sarabhai, Sivan said.
This is the first time India will have a rover landing on the moon nearly 50 years after American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the eerie lunar surface in 1969.
The Indian space agency, which was eyeing at the second lunar mission this year, has had to make design and functional changes to Chandrayaan-2, causing the delay and pushing the mission to January next year, Sivan said.
For its Chandrayaan-1, ISRO had carried a moon impact probe vehicle to crash land on the surface from the lunar orbit.
Main image by 阿爾特斯 [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons