India has announced plans to land an unpiloted space vehicle on the moon in 2020. The plans mark a continuation of India's drive to expand its space program.
The head of India's Space Research Organization, K. Sivan, made the announcement on January 1.
The planned mission, called Chandrayaan-3, aims to land an exploration vehicle on the moon's surface. Chandrayaan is the Sanskrit word for "moon vehicle." Sivan recently told reporters that mission planning had progressed "smoothly" so far.
"We are targeting the launch for this year, but it may spill over to next year," Sivan said. Indian sources told the French news agency AFP that officials had set November as a target launch date.
India is seeking to become only the fourth nation to land on the moon's surface -- after Russia, the United States and China. Israel made an unsuccessful attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon last April.
India has worked to establish itself as a low-cost satellite launcher. It is seeking to become a world space power. However, the country's space program suffered a failed moon-landing attempt last September. That mission, Chandrayaan-2, ended with the lander spacecraft crashing on the moon's surface.
Chandrayaan-2 had aimed to land on the south pole of the moon, where no other lunar mission had gone before. The area is believed to contain water because it is largely unaffected by the high temperatures of the sun.
Chandrayaan-3's explorer vehicle hopes to confirm the presence of water in the form of lunar ice, which it first discovered during a mission in 2008.
Sivan said the new unpiloted mission is expected to cost about $35 million, with additional launch costs.
Sivan also announced that India had chosen four candidate astronauts to take part in the country's first planned piloted mission into orbit. That mission is set for late 2021 at the earliest. The four candidates are expected to start training in Russia later this month. Up to three astronauts are to take part in the flight.
The piloted mission is one of India's main planned projects to mark the 75th anniversary of India's independence from British rule.
Words in This Story：
mission – n. a task or job that someone is given to do
spill over – v. to have an effect on something else