By Shakoor Rather
INDIA’S lunar mission will not only boost its science and technology but also help all space-faring nations to eventually set up man’s permanent presence on the Moon, says former NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger as the countdown for the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft to land on the celestial body nears its end. Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is set to land on the Moon anytime between 1.30 am and 2.30 am on September 7 (Saturday). “It’s a fantastic mission, everybody should be so excited. And I’m going to be sitting on the edge of my seat. And it’s a privilege for me to be here, lending some expertise to that live broadcast,” Linenger told PTI in an e-mail interview.
Although Russia, US and China have achieved a soft landing on the lunar surface, India is aiming at becoming the first one to explore the south pole of the Moon. Linengar, who flew on Russian space station Mir that operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001 for five months, is in India to take part in the Chandrayaan-2 live telecast on the National Geographic Channel starting 11.30 pm on Friday. “This mission is unique, it’s heading towards the south pole of the Moon, about 70 degrees latitude south. And that’s where we think there might be frozen water.
And so for example, the US is hoping to put a manned mission to the Moon in 2024,” Linenger said. In order to do that, the US will probably pick a landing site that is close to water, the essence of life, the 64-year-old said. “So this actually helps not only India and advancement of their science and their technology, it actually helps all space-faring nations on earth to advance, you know, our exploration to the Moon and to eventually set up a permanent presence of man on the moon, I should say, of people on the Moon,” he said. An astronaut narrator and space analyst, Linenger is impressed by the Indian space agency’s low cost missions. The Chandrayaan-2 mission cost Rs 978 crore.