7 PM | Moon Mission reaches key stage, what next? | 16th August, 2019

Context:Chandrayaan 2 will land on Moon’s South Pole region.

More in news:

  • On 22nd July 2019 India launched its second moon mission that is Chandrayaan 2.
  • On 14thAugust 2019, the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft left Earth’s orbit and moved towards the moon, which it will orbit over a series of manoeuvres before the ultimate soft landing, scheduled on September 7.

Chandrayaan 2

Chandrayaan 2 is an Indian lunar mission that will boldly go where no country has ever gone before that is the Moon’s South Polar Region. Through this effort, the aim is to improve our understanding of the Moon, discoveries that will benefit India and humanity as a whole. These insights and experiences aim at a paradigm shift in how lunar expeditions are approached for years to come propelling further voyages into the farthest frontiers.

Why Chandrayaan 2?

The Moon is the closest cosmic body at which space discovery can be attempted and documented. It is also a promising test bed to demonstrate technologies required for deep-space missions. Chandrayaan 2 attempts to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances, and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists.

Objective of Chandrayaan 2:

  • Moon provides the best linkage to Earth’s early history. It offers an undisturbed historical record of the inner Solar system environment.
  • Though there are a few mature models, the origin of Moon still needs further explanations. Extensive mapping of lunar surface to study variations in lunar surface composition is essential to trace back the origin and evolution of the Moon.
  • Evidence for water molecules discovered by Chandrayaan-1, requires further studies on the extent of water molecule distribution on the surface, below the surface and in the tenuous lunar exosphere to address the origin of water on Moon.
  • The lunar South Pole is especially interesting because of the lunar surface area here that remains in shadow are much larger than that at the North Pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it. In addition, South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System.
  • Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to soft land the lander -Vikram and rover- Pragyan in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at latitude of about 70° south.

Series of orbit manoeuvres:

  • Chandrayaan-2 had been orbiting the Earth, moving into higher and orbits. This is achieved by a series of Earth bound raising manoeuvres. There were five such manoeuvres before the mission left Earth orbit. From EPO (Earth Parking orbit) which is 170 ×39120 km (The two figures refer to the distance at the nearest and farthest points), the Chandrayaan 2 was raised in 5 successive orbits.
  • On August 20, Chandrayaan-2 will approach Moon and the spacecraft’s liquid engine will be fired again to insert the spacecraft into a lunar orbit. Following this, there will be further four orbit manoeuvres to take the spacecraft into its final orbit, passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the Moon’s surface.

The Lander – Vikram:

The Lander of Chandrayaan 2 is named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the Father of the Indian Space Programme. It is designed to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days. Vikram has the capability to communicate with IDSN at Byalalu near Bangalore, as well as with the Orbiter and Rover. The Lander is designed to execute a soft landing on the lunar surface.

Rover – Pragyan:

Chandrayaan 2’s Rover is a 6-wheeled robotic vehicle named Pragyan, which translates to ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit. It can travel up to 500 m (½-a-km) and leverages solar energy for its functioning. It can only communicate with the Lander.

Chandrayaan 1:

Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to Moon, was launched successfully on October 22, 2008. The spacecraft was orbiting around the Moon at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface for chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the Moon. The spacecraft carried 11 scientific instruments built in India, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria.

Chandrayaan-1 key achievements: 

  • The Chandrayaan-1 discovered traces of water on the moon-a path-breaking discovery in the world of space science.
  • Chandrayaan-1 also discovered water ice in the North Polar Region of the Moon.
  • It also detected Magnesium, Aluminium and Silicon on the lunar surface.
  • Global imaging of the moon is another achievement of this mission.

Conclusion:With the entire scientific mission riding on Chandrayaan-2, a successful landing near the South Pole in itself would be a remarkable feat for ISRO as well as space exploration world over. One of NASA’s main priorities is to go to the South Pole on a sample return mission. So findings from Chandrayaan 2 could help NASA, down-the-road, by providing the results of what’s all is there at Southern Polar Region of Moon.


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