In a little over a month from now, India will launch its second unmanned mission to the moon. In the first mission, launched in October 2008, Chandrayaan-1 carried out orbits of the moon. The launch of Chandrayaan-2 next month will represent a more ambitious plan: a soft landing on the moon. The soft landing is by far the most challenging part of the exercise. The enormity of the goal was best captured by Isro chairman K Sivan who said it would be the “most terrifying moment”.

To place Isro’s achievements and ambitions in context, even a technologically advanced country like Israel failed in its lunar landing attempt a couple of months ago. According to Isro, its lunar landing is scheduled to take place towards the end of the first week of September when a robotic rover will be released on the surface.

The Chandrayaan mission is the outcome of unwavering support Isro has received across governments. This support has helped it make important contributions in understanding the secrets of the inner solar system. To illustrate, the last moon mission, which was carried out in collaboration with NASA and European Space Agency, detected the signature of water molecules. The forthcoming mission will carry forward the study and explore the possibility of presence of water in the permanently shadowed areas of the moon. India needs the government to display similar far-sightedness in other areas of science and technology as well.