India, Japan look at joint moon mission, will bring samples to earth

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe sign an agreement documents during the India-Japan Annual Summit in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
India and Japan will collaborate to send a joint mission to the moon, which includes landing a rover and bringing samples back to the earth, a feat that was last achieved over four decades ago.


Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) Chairman A S Kiran Kumar and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) President Naoki Okumara said on Friday that an implementation agreement for the collaborative mission will be finalised within the next two months.


"We can do as soon as possible," said Okumara on timelines, but did not elaborate much. Both the countries have increased cooperation due to efforts made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. The space agencies plan follows the November 2016 agreement signed during PM Modi's visit to Japan, where they agreed on collaborating for deep space explorations.

This is the second time that Japan and India are teaming up for a moon mission.  Team Indus, which is aiming by March next will be the first private firm to land a rover on the moon and will carry a Japanese rover by team Hakuto on its spacecraft. This, however, is a private mission.


In the last decade or so, there is a global race to return to the moon and explore the earth's satellite as an energy resource or a potential human settlement. With increased sophistication of instruments, space agencies across the world are looking to send unmanned probes and machinery than send a human that would become prohibitively expensive.

The last man to land on moon was in December 1972, the last of the six manned missions that the United States sent during the space race with Russia. The then Soviet Republic sent a mission in 1970 to bring back samples from the moon.


India's first successful attempt to moon Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 also brought worldwide attention on the country's space proficiency.  It also helped discover traces of water on the lunar surface, which subsequent missions will study.


A joint mission to send a rover to the moon with Russia was aborted with Isro planning to go on its own with its Chandrayaan-2. The mission, which will look to create an elevated map of the moon is expected to be launched by March, said Kumar of Isro.


Japan has also had success in the moon. In October, the Lunar Radar Sounder on its Selenological and Engineering Explorer orbiter (SELENE) has found a long and deep tunnel under the moon's surface.  It found a  50-km long intact lava tube underground along a lava flow river 'rille' on the "Marius Hills of the Moon”.


Okumara expressed confidence that the two countries could effectively collaborate in utilising the space for societal benefit of the region. His country was also looking forward for collaboration in the fields of remote sensing and climate change. 

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