Why in news?
- ISRO has now announced, Chandrayaan-2 will be launched on July 15, and its lander and rover would touch down on the moon’s surface on September 6.
- The Chandrayaan-2 mission has taken a long way coming, considering that its predecessor, Chandrayaan-1, an Orbiter mission, had been sent way back in 2008.
- According to the original schedule, Chandrayaan-2 was to be launched in 2012 itself, but at that time it was supposed to be a collaborative mission with the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, which was to provide the lander module.
- The Russians, however, withdrew from the missions after their similarly-designed lander for another mission developed problems in 2011.
- That left ISRO to design, develop and build the lander on its own, something it has not done earlier, which has led to considerable delay from the original schedule.
- Now, it is expected to produce much more science than Chandrayaan-1 could.
A sequel to Chandrayaan-1
- Oct 2008: The Chandrayaan-1 mission, which was launched in October 2008, was ISRO’s first exploratory mission to the moon, in fact to any heavenly body in the space.
- Mission: That mission was designed to just orbit around the moon and make observations with the help of the instruments on board.
- The closest that Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft came to the moon was in an orbit 100 km from its surface.
- Moon Impact Probe (MIP): For largely symbolic reasons, though, the Chandrayaan-1 mission did make one of its instruments, called Moon Impact Probe, or MIP, a 35-kg cube-shaped module with the Indian tricolour on all its sides, to crash-land on the moon’s surface.
- But that did not, apparently, just leave an Indian imprint on the moon’s surface.
- ISRO claims that while on its way, MIP had sent data that showed evidence for the presence of water on the moon.
- Unfortunately, those findings could not be published because of anomalies in calibration of the data.
- Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3): The confirmation for water had come through studies on data produced by another instrument onboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, the M3 or Moon Mineralogy Mapper, that had been put by NASA.
- Chandrayaan-2 consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all equipped with scientific instruments to study the moon.
- The Orbiter will once again orbit from 100 km away, while the Lander and Rover modules will separate and make a soft-landing on the surface.
- ISRO has named the Lander module Vikram, after Vikram Sarabhai, and the Rover module Pragyaan, meaning wisdom.
- Orbiter will observe lunar surface and relay communication between Earth and
- the Lander, named Vikram.
- The Rover is a 6-wheeled, AI-powered vehicle named Pragyan.
- The Lander: The Lander is the distinguishing feature. It is the first time that ISRO is attempting to soft-land a module in extra-terrestrial space.
- Challenge: The main challenge is in controlling its speed as it approaches the surface.
- Once the Lander and the Rover, enter the Moon’s gravity, they would be in a state of free fall. That could end in crash-landing and destruction of instrument; because of lack of air to provide drag, these instruments cannot make use of parachute-like technologies.
- Instead, the Lander fires thrusters in the opposite direction to slow down.
- To enable a smooth landing, the speed of the Lander just ahead of touchdown should be 1 m/s (3.6 km/h) or less.
- The Rover: Once on the Moon, 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, and its primary objective will be to study the composition of the surface near the lunar landing site, and determine its abundance of various elements.
- The 1471-kg Lander, which will remain stationary after touching down, will carry three instruments that will mainly study the moon’s atmosphere. One of these will also look out for seismic activity.
- While the Lander and Rover are designed to work for only 14 days (1 lunar day), the Orbiter, a 2,379-kg spacecraft with seven instruments on board, would remain in orbit for a year.
- It is equipped with different kinds of camera to take create high-resolution three-dimensional maps of the surface.
- It also has instruments to study the mineral composition on moon and the lunar atmosphere, and also to assess the abundance of water.
Moon’s dark side
- 4th country: With Chandrayaan-2, India will become only the fourth country to land a spacecraft on Moon.
- So far, all landings, human as well as non-human, have been in areas close to the Moon’s equator.
- That was mainly because this area receives more sunlight, which is required by solar-powered instruments.
- Chang’e 4: In January this year, China landed a lander and rover on the Moon’s far side (not facing the Earth). This was the first time any landing had taken place on that side.
- The Chinese mission, Chang’e 4, was designed to function for three lunar days but has already entered its fifth lunar night.
- Chandrayaan-2: Chandrayaan-2 will make a landing at a site where no earlier mission has gone, near the south pole of the Moon.
- The unexplored territory offers an opportunity for the mission to discover something new.
- Incidentally, the crash-landing of the MIP from Chandrayaan-1 had happened in the same region of the Moon.
- 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, and also contain clues to the fossil records of early solar system.
- ISRO has not announced any date for establishing a space station. And that is because it would crucially depend on the success of Gaganyaan which will demonstrate the agency’s capability to send astronauts and bring them back safely. Until a human space flight becomes successful, the space station would be meaningless.
- ISS: As of now, only NASA’s International Space Station is operational.
- Mir: Before that, the Mir station built by the erstwhile Soviet Union was the only such facility available.
- China is the only other country to have a space station programme, and it has tested out technologies through two Tiangong spacecraft. It is not yet ready to support habitation for astronauts.
- A day after it announced the launch date for the Chandrayaan-2 mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said it intended to build a permanent station in space in the next five to seven years.
- It seems to be a logical step forward, after the exploratory missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan -1) and Mars (Mangalyaan), the upcoming Lander and Rover mission to Moon (Chandrayaan-2), the declared human space flight before 2022 (Gaganyaan), and a possible, still undeclared, human mission to the Moon sometime later.
- With these missions, ISRO has also been signalling a distinct change in its priorities — henceforth, it would be an agency engaged mainly in space and inter-planetary exploration, while other ventures like commercial satellite launches would only be secondary activities.
- Much would, however, depend on the success of Chandrayaan-2 and Gaganyaan.
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