BENGALURU: The Chandrayaan-2 mission is being played out in the background of an ultra-ambitious ARTEMIS program of NASA which aims to put the next few humans – two to start with, including a woman, as being planned – on the moon by 2024 and establish a permanent lunar station on the lines of the International Space Station in the moon’s orbit by 2028.
This lunar station, being called the Gateway, is being looked at by NASA scientists as the future outpost for sustained explorations of the moon, as well as a “base camp” for missions to Mars.
With data sharing among global space scientists common these days, scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation say this is bound to evoke much interest especially among scientists at NASA.
ISRO scientists said NASA does expect significant data contribution as its Goddard Space Flight Center-developed laser retroreflector array (LRA) is on board the lander Vikram, to calculate the precise measurements of the distance between the earth and the moon. This is the only non-Indian payload on Chandrayaan-2.
Precise measurements between Earth and the Moon (the farthest point and the closest point during Moon’s revolutions around the earth, included) are essential particularly as NASA’s ARTEMIS program would involve more frequent manned missions to the lunar surface, ahead of missions to Mars by using the moon as a stepping stone to deep space manned missions of the future.
Besides, of course, there is the Chandrayaan-2’s hunt for possible water and minerals in their different forms near the lunar south pole, which is where India’s Chandrayaan-2 is scheduled to land on September 6 this year.
Water and minerals and the various chemical composition of the lunar surface would be critical to setting up lunar surface-based bases in the future, which has not been left out of plans being made by international space agencies.
According to NASA officials, the ARTEMIS program involves having a Gateway stationed in the moon’s orbit – what is being called a “deep-space outpost” – by year 2028 from where sustained manned and unmanned missions from this station to the lunar surface (a distance of just 100-200 Km altitude from the moon’s surface) will be carried out.
The Gateway will be a station for astronauts regrouping after completing their lunar surface explorations. Towards that, astronauts have been ordered to make moon landings by 2024.