NASA lab asks ISRO to partner for moon mission

New Delhi: With the US lifting sanctions on ISRO, a top NASA laboratory has approached the Indian space agency with a proposal to collaborate for a moon mission aimed at getting back a kilogram of rocks from the lunar surface.

The iconic Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which has sent missions to Mars and Venus, wants ISRO to put a satellite around the moon which will be a link between its lunar lander probe and the earth.

"The mission is similar to the Chandrayaan-I mission. JPL has asked ISRO to put a satellite around the moon," ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said here.

The Space Commission, India`s apex space policy body, has given ISRO the go-ahead to partner with JPL for the project named `Moon Rise` which could be launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under its New Frontiers Programme announced in 2009.

As part of the project, JPL plans to drop a robotic lander into a basin at the moon`s south pole to send lunar rocks back to Earth for study.

The mission, if selected, would be launched in 2016.

The 400-500 kg satellite is being planned to have a life of up to five years and could also carry some scientific experiments of ISRO, Radhakrishnan said.

He said the proposal was an outcome of India-US cooperation announced during the visit of President Barack Obama to India last year.

He said India`s contribution to the project could amount to about 150 million dollars.

The mission is part of a joint proposal with JPL which will be put up before NASA.

"We will take forward the proposal and work out a detail plan once NASA selects the proposal," Radhakrishnan said.

NASA has selected three proposals as candidates for the agency`s next space venture to another celestial body in the solar system. The final project selected in mid-2011 may provide a better understanding of Earth`s formation or perhaps the origin of life on Earth.