Forthcoming Space Missions

`That’s one small step for man but one giant leap for mankind`. These golden words added a new chapter in the history of several space explorations.

Last Updated: Jul 18, 2009, 20:48 PM IST

`That’s one small step for man but one giant leap for mankind`. These golden words added a new chapter in the history of several space explorations.
Neil Armstrong’s first foot on moon changed the very basic assumptions of science and technology for human race. The possibilities awaiting the space explorers could very well challenge human imagination. With its hidden inexplicable secrets, mankind has always been fantasised with an urge to go beyond their limits and explore the unknown secrets of space.

Science has played an important push factor in the development of the most advanced and developing nations. As said by ISRO Chairman Madhavan Nair, “Space is going to be the next frontier for the future generation, and India cannot afford to lag behind.”

With the 40th anniversary of the Apollo-11 mission let’s discuss the probable forthcoming missions of several nations to unfold the mysteries of the vast layers of space.

India’s future missions

Chandrayaan-2 launch by 2013

After Chandrayaan-I, the biggest impediment to the launch of Chandrayaan-2 is ensuring a soft landing for the rover on the moon since the moon’s gravitation is less than that of the earth. The ISRO would have to build technology for managing the impact of the landing. “We will be able to land the rover on the moon by 2013,” Nair has said.

Chandrayaan manned moon mission

India will be able to send its first manned mission to moon by the year 2020. India has the capacity and technology, what they need is providing required training to human beings to survive the condition on moon and the zero gravitation.

According to ISRO chairman Nair, “US and China are two main contenders who want to send man on moon by 2020. Though they have not yet announced anything but they have the capacity and adequate funds to send man to moon by 2020.” Adding to his comments Defence Min Antony has also said that Centre will fully support ISRO`s manned moon mission.

India’s manned mission to space will cost around $2.3 billion (Rs 12,000 crore). While ISRO is not averse to international cooperation, it prefers to be self-reliant. ISRO’s manned mission into space has been approved by the Space Commission and is awaiting the government’s approval.

India`s Mars mission

The Indian mission to Mars got an impetus with ISRO`s 11th plan including the flight to the Red Planet as a part of the document. India`s decision assumes significance in the background of Mars becoming a favourite target after the moon for the US, Russia and the European Space Agency. In fact recently Russia has begun preparations for a manned mission to Mars. With Japan and China also expected to join the race to Mars, Indian space scientists feel that India cannot afford to lag behind.

Recently director of the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), J N Goswami, told that if the project is finally approved “India will carry out scientific activities on Mars in the international context and our plan also envisages imaging Mars only through an orbiter.”

He also said the Indian Mars mission will focus on basic science like studying the Martian atmosphere, the ionosphere, the magnetic field, the dust storms and the weather. The project also includes searching for water, he said.

Though a precise time line for the ambitious six-to-eight month flight to Mars has yet to be worked, indications are that if the Centre endorses the project, the mission could lift off around 2015 using the three-stage Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) which is already operational. The Mars orbiter that has to be designed and made is expected to weigh around 500 kgs.

The cost of the mission will be Rs three billion. The mission to moon has a price tag of Rs 386 crore. ISRO chairman, G Madhavan Nair once said, “Mars is emerging on our horizon.”

Asteroid mission

Asteroid or comet flyby flights, which could study the surface and interior of comet nucleus, composition of dust and gas in the comet, solar radiations and also bring samples of comet dust for study, are next in list for the future missions of India.
Other future decided missions

WISE launch, 2009: WISE explorer satellite of NASA is scheduled to be in orbit on Nov 1, 09. This mission will provide a vast storehouse of knowledge about the solar system, the Milky Way, and the Universe. Among the objects WISE will study are asteroids, the coolest and dimmest stars, and the most luminous galaxies.

WISE is an unmanned satellite carrying an infrared-sensitive telescope that will image the entire sky. After 6 months of its launch WISE will have taken nearly 1,500,000 pictures covering the entire sky. Data taken by WISE will be downloaded by radio transmission 4 times per day to computers on the ground which will combine the many images taken by WISE into an atlas covering the entire celestial sphere and a list of all the detected objects.

Space Technology 7Launch, 2009-2010: JPL manages a technology to fly on the European Lisa Pathfinder mission

Space Technology 8Launch, 2009: As a mission of NASA`s New Millennium Program, Space Technology 8 will space validate four new subsystem-level technologies. Each of these technologies was selected for its promise in advancing NASA`s most important future science missions. › Mission home page› New Millennium Program

Wide-field Infrared Survey ExplorerLaunch: November 2009This space-based telescope will scan the entire sky in infrared light, revealing cool stars, planetary construction zones and the brightest galaxies in the universe.

AquariusLaunch, 2010: This mission will provide the first-ever global maps of salt concentrations in the ocean surface needed to understand heat transport and storage in the ocean.

Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) Launch, 2011: The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the moon for three months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail.

JunoLaunch, August 2011: This mission will conduct an in-depth study of the giant gas planet Jupiter. Beneath its clouds, Jupiter holds secrets about our solar system’s early history. Juno will endeavor to unlock these secrets, while shedding light on how planet formation unfolds in other star systems. Juno is the first solar-powered spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, and the first to study the planet from Observatory Arrives at Kennedy Space Center.

Mars Science Laboratory Launch, 2011: NASA proposes to develop and to launch a roving long-range, long-duration science laboratory that will be a major leap in surface measurements and pave the way for a future sample return mission

Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope ArrayLaunch, 2011: The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is a pathfinder mission that will study the sky through high energy X-rays

Mid Infrared instrument on James Webb Space Telescope Launch, 2013: JPL is managing the development of the Mid Infrared Instrument, one of the three focal plane instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope, a large, infrared-optimized space telescope

Soil Moisture Active PassiveLaunch, 2010-2013: Soil Moisture Active Passive mission will use a combined radiometer and high-resolution radar to measure surface soil moisture and freeze-thaw state, providing new opportunities for scientific advances and societal benefits

Other Proposed Missions
Alien search: NASA was currently in the news for its Kepler mission, which aimed to explore outer space for alien life. The mission is a $600-million mission in search of habitable planets. China, the US and Japan are going ahead with major plans for space exploration. While ISRO says it is not interested in a space war, it also does not want to be lagging behind in enhancing its competence to explore space. The date of this mission is still unknown.

SDO: Solar Dynamics Observatory: The Solar Dynamics Observatory will help in understanding the sun`s influence on Earth by studying the solar atmosphere at multiple wavelengths. NASA`s upcoming mission to study the sun in unprecedented detail and its effects on Earth, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), arrived at NASA`s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. on July 9.

Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of ICELaunch: U.S. mission using the combined advanced radar technologies of Interferometric Synthetic Aperture and Light Detection and Ranging, optimized for studying hazards and global environmental change

Laser Interferometer Space AntennaLaunch: This mission will observe gravitational waves from binary stars both inside and beyond our galaxy, including gravitational waves generated in the vicinity of the very massive black holes found in the centers of many galaxies. The mission will consist of three spacecraft forming an equilateral triangle while travelling in space

Terrestrial Planet FinderLaunch: This mission will use multiple telescopes working together to take family portraits of stars and their orbiting planets. It will also determine which planets may have the right chemistry for life.

Compiled by Devika Chhibber