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ISRO gears up for human spaceflight, Chandrayaan-2 launch by mid-April

Bengaluru: Declaring that India's second Moon mission is planned for mid-April this year, ISRO Friday said it was also gearing up for its maiden human spaceflight programme 'Gaganyaan' by 2021-end that is likely to include a woman astronaut.

The space agency had earlier said Chandrayaan-2 would be launched in a window from January-February 16, 2019.

"Right now Chandrayaan is scheduled from March 25 to April end. Most probably, the normal targeted date is April middle," ISRO Chairman K Sivan said.

The space agency had earlier planned to launch the spacecraft sometime between January and February, but it could not materialise because specific tests could not be conducted, Sivan told reporters as he laid out ISRO's programmes.

"If we miss April, it will go to June," he said in response to a question about the next launch window available, adding that "but, we will be targeting April".

Chandrayaan-2 mission, costing nearly Rs 800 crore, is an advanced version of the previous Chandrayaan-1 mission about ten years ago. It is a wholly indigenous venture and comprises an orbiter, a lander and a rover.

After a controlled descent, the lander will soft-land on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy a rover, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The six-wheeled rover will move around the landing site on the lunar surface in a semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands.

The instruments on the rover will observe the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil.

It might take 35 to 45 days to reach the Moon after the launch, as ISRO plans six-stage orbit raising manoeuvres, Sivan said.

Also, gearing up for the maiden human spaceflight mission, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ISRO has set up a new centre to facilitate the manned voyage involving a three-member crew.

Terming Gaganyaan as a "major turning point" for ISRO, Sivan said it is contributing to the space agency's expansion in a significant way.

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