Insights into Editorial: Chandrayaan-2 launch on July 15: ISRO
Chandrayaan-2, the country’s first moon lander and rover mission, is a month away. The Indian Space Research Organisation has marked mid-July for the take-off.
India’s most ambitious space mission will get under way at 2.51 a.m. on July 15 when its powerful Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-MK III) soars into the sky from the spaceport at Sriharikota with the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft on board.
Technologically, it will be the most challenging mission that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has undertaken because ISRO will not only be sending a spacecraft to the moon but attempting to soft-land a contraption called the lander on the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan-1, which was launched on 22 October 2008, orbited the moon more than 3,400 times and played a crucial part in the discovery of water molecules on the lunar surface, until the spacecraft completed its life cycle and communication with it was lost on 29 August 2009.
Chandrayaan 1 Mission did send one of its instruments, called Moon Impact Probe to crash land on the Moon’s surface.
It was designed to just orbit the Moon and make observations with instruments on board. In the Orbit, the closest the spacecraft came was 100 km from the Moon surface.
ISRO later claimed that the data sent by MIP on its way to the Moon had shown evidence of presence of water, but it could not publish those findings due to anomalies in calibration.
The confirmation for water had come through studies on the data produced by another instrument on-board the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, the M3 or Moon Mineralogy Mapper, that had been put up by NASA.
Chandrayaan-2 to have 3 components — Orbiter, Lander and Rover:
Chandrayaan 2 is India’s second lunar mission with three modules: the Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan).
The Orbiter and Lander will be mechanically interfaced and stacked together as an integrated module inside the launch vehicle, GSLV MK-III.
The Orbiter and Lander modules would be interfaced mechanically and stacked together as an integrated module and accommodated inside the GSLV MK-III launch vehicle. Rover is housed inside Lander.
After the launch into an earth-bound orbit by GSLV MK-III, the integrated module would reach the moon orbit using the orbiter propulsion module.
Chandrayaan spacecraft, with a mass of 3.8 tonne, will have three modules comprising of the Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan).
This is the first time that ISRO is attempting to soft-land a module in extra-terrestrial Space.
Once the Lander and Rover, enter the Moon’s gravity, they would be in a state of free fall. That could end up in crash-landing and destruction of instrument.
Because of lack of air to provide drag, these instruments cannot make use of parachute like technologies.
To enable a smooth landing, the speed of the Lander just ahead of touchdown should be 3.6 kilometres per hour or less.
The Rover, a six-wheeled solar-powered vehicle, will detach itself and slowly crawl on the surface, making observations and collecting data.
It will be equipped with two instruments, the primary objective is to study the composition of the surface near the lunar landing site, and determine its abundance of various elements.
It is designed in such a way that it will have power to spend a lunar day or 14 Earth days on Moon’s surface.
The mission cost of Chandrayaan-2 with regard to the satellite was Rs 603 crore. Cost of GSLV MK III is Rs 375 crore.
According to the ISRO, Orbiter, with scientific payloads, would orbit around the moon. Lander would soft land on the moon at a predetermined site and deploy Rover.
The scientific payloads on board Orbiter, Lander and Rover are expected to perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface.
India: Fourth Country to Land a Spacecraft on Moon:
India will become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the Moon. So far, all the landings have been in the areas close to the Moon’s equator.
This is mainly because, this area receives more sunlight, which is required by solar powered instruments.
But Chandrayaan-2 will make a landing at a site where no earlier mission has gone, i.e., near the South Pole of the Moon. It can contain clues to the fossil records of early Solar System.
The unexplored territory gives an opportunity for the Mission to discover something new. The South Pole of the Moon holds possibility of presence of water. In addition, this area is also supposed to have ancient rocks and craters that can offer indications of history of the Moon.
ISRO recently listed at least six complexities of soft landing a mission on the Moon – something that pioneers Russia and the U.S. could not achieve easily back in the mid-1960s. Soft landing, it says, is the most challenging part of the mission.
ISRO mentions 6 objectives the Chandrayaan 2 mission aims at achieving:
- Push the boundaries of scientific knowledge to unravel the mysteries of this universe.
- Unleash innovation by throwing challenges at the youth of the country, and spurring future research and development.
- Explore economic possibilities by strengthening ISRO’s alliance with the industry.
- Engaging with the general public by motivating the youth to undertake real life applications of science and technology.
- Expanding India’s footprint in space as Moon is the perfect test-bed for proving technologies required for future space explorations.
- Making India a key contributor of exploring and uncovering secrets of the universe, thus fostering shared aspirations of the international community.
Based on the new landing-profile, the mission has further changes and new problems, with mission engineers working overtime to ensure timely launch.
ISRO highlighted that the mission was supported by more than 500 academic institutions and 120 industries that contributed 60% of the Rs.603 crore cost of Chandrayaan-2 and 80% of the Rs.375 crore cost of the Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle-Mark III.
With all the scientific mission riding on Chandrayaan-2, a successful landing near the south pole in itself would be an extraordinary feat for ISRO as well as global space exploration agencies.
The mission will also provide a map of the moon’s topology, which could add many new findings to existing data due to its unique choice of the landing site.