ISRO ‘Internally’ working on complex Chandrayaan-4 Moon sample return mission

ISRO is conceptually working on an ambitious Chandrayaan-4 mission that will attempt the complex task of collecting Moon samples and returning them to Earth.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has revealed that it has started internal conceptual work on the Chandrayaan-4 lunar probe, which will aim to achieve the highly complex task of collecting and bringing Moon soil samples back to Earth.

The disclosure came from ISRO Chairman S Somanath following the successful launch of the GSLV-F14 rocket carrying the INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite on Saturday. Somanath stated that after the soon-to-launch Chandrayaan-3 mission, ISRO intends to pursue more ambitious Chandrayaan-4, 5, 6 and 7 missions in the coming years.


‘We are working on what the Chandrayaan-4 spacecraft should contain. The first question is what Chandrayaan-4 should be having as the payload,’ said Somanath. “The plan is to do something different.”

He revealed that ISRO has decided at least Chandrayaan-4 should retrieve samples from the lunar surface and bring them to Earth for analysis. This will be done robotically in order to reduce mission complexity and costs.

Somanath observed that launching a mission to collect extraterrestrial samples and safely return them to Earth involves very intricate operations, far more than standard orbital or surface missions.

“Going to the Moon, collecting samples, taking off from there and coming back to Earth is double the work we have done last time,” he remarked.

After landing on the Moon, Chandrayaan-4 will need to launch a specific ascent vehicle from the lunar surface that can then travel back to Earth and safely land here while protecting the precious Moon samples it carries.

‘Our rockets today are not fully capable to do this,’ Somanath noted. “So we are trying a novel design, which I will not reveal now, it will be secret.”

According to the Secretary of the Department of Space, ISRO scientists aim to develop cutting-edge technologies tailored to meet the highly demanding goals of Chandrayaan-4. The project will move forward after the Government approves the mission plan and allocates funding.

‘There is going to be high-end technology which we are developing to do this mission. We will soon come back after government approvals, after we detail the way forward and the money required,’ Somanath stated.

The Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander mission scheduled to launch in mid-2023 comes over a decade after Chandrayaan-2 in 2019. The previous mission successfully orbited the Moon but failed to soft-land its Vikram lander with the Pragyan rover onboard. If all goes well, Chandrayaan-3 will demonstrate ISRO’s capability to safely land spacecraft on the lunar surface.

Building on those key learnings, Chandrayaan-4 aims to take a giant leap by securing pristine samples from Moon’s hitherto unexplored geology and delivering them back to labs on Earth. This could help unravel further mysteries about lunar formation and evolution.

As ISRO gears up to pursue more complex deep space endeavors, the Chandrayaan series could position India as a rising spacefaring nation that contributes vital scientific discoveries about Earth’s natural satellite in the international arena.