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ISRO and Chandrayaan-3 mission

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Science and Technology: Space Science

 

Source: IE, IE, TOI

 Context: The Chandrayaan-3 mission’s successful soft landing on the Moon marks India’s significant achievement, becoming the fourth nation in history to reach the lunar surface.

 

Historical overview of ISRO’s major programs – satellites, launch vehicles, and planetary exploration.

Program Key Achievements
Satellite Programs
Aryabhata (1975) Marked India’s entry into space era; conducted experiments in X-ray astronomy, aeronomics, and solar physics.
Bhaskar-1 & Bhaskar-2 Experimental remote-sensing satellites laying the groundwork for Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) Satellite system.
IRS-1A (1988) Launched Earth Observation spacecraft aiding land-based applications like agriculture, forestry, etc.
INSAT Series Initiated communication revolution, providing nationwide connectivity, broadcasting, meteorological info, etc.
IRNSS (NavIC) (2013) Started for terrestrial, aerial, marine navigation, location-based services, etc.
Launch Vehicle Programs
1963 Nike Apache Initial rocket launch; ‘sounding rocket’ experiment.
SLV-3 (1980) India’s first launch vehicle; entry into space-faring nations.
PSLV Reliable and versatile workhorse; enabled critical space missions.
GSLV Addressed PSLV’s limitations; introduced cryogenic engines.
GSLV Mk-III Heaviest launch vehicle; used for Chandrayaan-2 and Chandrayaan-3 missions.
Planetary Exploration
Chandrayaan-1 (2008) Detected water on the Moon; the fifth country to reach the lunar surface.
Mangalyaan (2013) First interplanetary mission; reached Mars orbit, showcasing interplanetary technology.
Chandrayaan-2 (2019) Aimed for lunar exploration but faced a setback with the lander’s soft landing.
Chandrayaan-3 (2023) Achieved a successful soft landing on the Moon, contributing to India’s lunar capabilities.

Challenges of landing on the Moon’s South Pole:

Challenges are primarily due to the difficult terrain, extreme temperatures, and areas of permanent shadow. Unlike previous spacecraft that landed near the lunar equator, the South Pole presents greater difficulties with its rugged landscape, extreme cold, and regions that never receive sunlight.

 

However, despite these challenges, ISRO is interested in exploring the Moon’s South Pole for several important reasons:

  • Water Resources: The South Pole region is believed to contain significant amounts of water molecules, potentially trapped as ice in shadowed craters.
    • Confirming the presence of water is crucial for planning future human missions and utilizing lunar resources.
  • Scientific Discoveries: The harsh environment and the existence of permanently shadowed areas offer a unique window into the Moon’s history and the early Solar System.
    • Studying this region can provide valuable insights into the origins and evolution of celestial bodies.
  • Clues to Earth’s History: The Moon is thought to have formed from the debris of a massive impact between a Mars-sized object and early Earth.
    • Exploring the lunar South Pole can shed light on the materials and conditions that existed during this critical event.
  • Global Collaborations: Successful collaborations between ISRO and NASA have previously confirmed the presence of water on the Moon.
    • Partnerships like the Indo-Japan LUPEX mission aim to explore the South Pole further, with plans to send a lander and rover by 2024.
  • Technological Advancements: Undertaking missions to the lunar South Pole allows ISRO to develop and showcase innovative technologies. This includes advancements in soft landing techniques, navigation systems, resource utilization, and long-duration operations that can have broad applications in future space missions.

 

Instruments and Experiments on Chandrayaan 3: 

Lander Experiments:

  • Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA): This experiment studies the electrons and ions near the moon’s surface, investigating their behaviour and changes over time.
  • Chandra’s Surface Thermo Physical Experiment (ChaSTE): ChaSTE focuses on the thermal properties of the lunar surface near the polar region, contributing to our understanding of temperature variations.
  • Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA): ILSA measures lunar quakes near the landing site, analyzing the composition of the Moon’s crust and mantle through seismic activity.
  • LASER Retroreflector Array (LRA): This passive experiment, provided by NASA, acts as a target for lasers, enabling precise measurements for future missions.

 

Rover Experiments:

  • LASER-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS): LIBS determines the chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface, offering insights into its geological makeup.
  • Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS): APXS identifies elements like magnesium, aluminium, silicon, and more in the lunar soil and rocks, contributing to our understanding of lunar materials.

 

Study objectives of the mission:

Objective Details
Discovery of Water The southern polar region of the Moon, characterized by deep craters in permanent darkness, is believed to contain water ice. Previously, Chandrayaan-1 instruments discovered water and hydroxyl (OH) molecules in the Moon’s thin atmosphere and on the lunar surface.
Buried Lava Tubes Chandrayaan-1’s terrain mapping camera and hyperspectral imager found evidence of underground lava tubes. These structures offer a potentially safe habitat for humans in the future, shielding against radiation, meteoric impacts, extreme temperatures, and dust storms on the lunar surface.
Magma Ocean Thesis The Moon’s formation from an impact that led to surface melting, called the magma ocean hypothesis, was studied by Chandrayaan-1’s M3 payload. This will be further studied by this mission.
Dynamic Moon Contrary to the belief of lunar dormancy, Chandrayaan-1 revealed the Moon’s dynamic nature interacting with the exosphere. Terrain mapping camera identified volcanic vents, lava ponds, and channels as recent as 100 million years old, indicating recent volcanic activity.
Solar Flares Chandrayaan-2’s Solar X-Ray Monitor observed solar microflares beyond the active region, analyzing elemental abundance from the solar corona.
Mapping of Minerals CLASS X-ray Fluorescence experiment mapped approximately 95% of the lunar surface using X-rays, a significant improvement compared to past missions. The new mission will further explore abundant oxygen in mineral oxides on the Moon, potentially exploitable as fuel for future space missions.

 

In the future of ISRO, several potentials and challenges emerge:

 Potentials:

  • Global Market Share: ISRO aims to secure a significant 9% share of the global space market by 2030, indicating its ambition for international prominence.
  • Economic Growth: Forecasts suggest that India’s space economy could expand to an impressive $100 billion by 2040, exceeding the initially projected $40 billion figure
  • International Collaborations: The success of endeavours like Chandrayaan-3 opens doors for enhanced international cooperation and partnerships with various countries.

 

Challenges:

  • Budget Constraints: Recent trends underscore financial limitations, with budget allocations declining. In the fiscal year 2023-2024, ISRO received ₹12,544 crore, an 8% decrease from the preceding year.
  • Manpower Issues: ISRO’s workforce has remained largely static for years, and there’s a concerning decline in students pursuing advanced space studies, potentially leading to a shortage of skilled personnel.
  • Global Ranking: Despite impressive accomplishments, India’s global space ranking is relatively modest, being among the top 15 nations with satellites in orbit and commanding just 2% of the overall global space economy.

 

About Luna 25: Russia’s Lunar Mission:

Luna 25 was a Russian lunar mission launched by Roscosmos on August 11, 2023. The mission aimed to soft-land a lander near the moon’s south pole to study moondust, moon soil, and the atmosphere. However, the mission encountered a glitch and crashed on the moon’s surface on August 20, ending in failure.

  

About LVM3: 

Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3) (previously known as GSLV-MK III) is a three-stage launch vehicle consisting of two solid propellants S200 strap-ons on its sides and a core stage comprising L110 liquid stage and C25 cryogenic stage. The vehicle is also dubbed as one of the heaviest for its ability to carry satellites up to 8,000 kg.

  

Insta Links:

Chandrayaan-3

 

Mains Links:

What is India’s plan to have its own space station and how will it benefit our space programme? (UPSC 2019)

 

Prelims Links:

Q Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2016)

The Mangalyaan launched by ISRO

  1. is also called the Mars Orbiter Mission
  2. made India the second country to have a spacecraft orbit the Mars after USA
  3. made India the only country to be successful in making its spacecraft orbit Mars in its very first attempt

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Ans: C