India’s space mission seeks to harness space technology for national development. Iin this regard, India’s space programme took a giant leap when Chandrayaan-2 mission in a bid to land on lunar surface was attempted. Chandrayaan-2 was a follow-up mission to Chandrayaan-1, which was launched in October 2008 and orbited around the moon for 312 days till August, 2009. It discovered water in the form of ice in various parts of the moon, which was a path-breaking discovery in the world of space science. It also discovered minerals such as magnesium, aluminium and silicon on the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan-2 was launched to further explore the Lunar surface. Thus, the objective of the Chandrayaan-2 mission was to explore and perform studies in the South Pole region of the moon which had not been explored previously. The mission consisted of a lunar orbiter, lander and rover. One of the objectives of Chandrayaan-2, was to demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface. Its scientific goals included studies of lunar topography, availability of minerals and water in the form of ice.
Components of Chandrayaan-2
The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft included three components: a Lunar orbiter, the Vikram lander and the Pragyan lunar rover, all of which were indigenously designed and developed.
The Lunar orbiter carried eight scientific instruments, which includes a high resolution camera for finding a hazard free spot for the lander and other equipment for mapping the lunar surface for presence of minerals as well as the presence of water in the form of ice. It has an electric power generation capability of 1000 watts and a weight of 2379 kg. Its life is expected to be more than seven years.
The Vikram lander had to detach from the orbiter and descend to a low lunar orbit of 30 km x 100 km by using its main engines. It was to then perform a comprehensive check of all its on-board systems before attempting a soft landing that would have deployed the rover and enabled it to perform scientific activities for approximately 14 Earth days.
It had the capability to communicate with Earth as well as with the Orbiter and Rover. It had all the equipment to select a suitable landing site and slow down its speed to enable a soft landing. However, it failed to slow down sufficiently to enable the Pragyan rover to carry out its work of exploring the lunar surface. The lander had an electric power generation capability of 650 watts and a weight of 1471 kg, which included the rover having a weight of 27 kg.
The Pragyan lunar rover was a 6-wheeled robotic vehicle which could travel a distance of upto 500 metres for exploring the moon’s surface. It also had an electric power generation capability of 50 watts. It was capable to communicate with the lander. Its primary objective was to identify and determine the abundance of elements near the landing site.
Timeline of the Mission
The mission was launched on a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III), popularly known as Bahubali, from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, on Sriharikota Island on 22nd July, 2019. It is primarly designed to launch communication satellites in Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).
Initially, the spacecraft was placed in Earth’s orbit for a while, its orbit was raised using on-board propulsion over the next 22 days. After 29 days from its launch, the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft entered lunar orbit on 20th August, 2019. After performing a lunar orbit insertion operation, it was placed into an elliptical orbit that passes over the polar regions of the Moon.
This was followed by separation of the lander from the orbiter on 2nd September, 2019. After selecting a suitable landing site, the lander separated from the orbiter on 6th September, 2019. In 15 minutes, communication with the lander was lost, as it had made a ‘hard’ landing due to a software glitch.
Importance of Chandrayaan-2 Mission for India
Even though the mission has not completed all its stated objectives yet it has boosted the national pride of India. It will motivate the youth to develop scientific temper and undertake real life applications of science and technology. The mission is going to improve the understanding of the Moon and benefit India as well as the whole humanity. It will also provide a push to the home grown indigenously developed space technology that will be critical to future launches and technology missions. It is crucial for inculcating a spirit of scientific temper, innovation and higher standards of manufacturing in India’s space sector. ISRO’s partnership with the Indian startups in the space sector such as Team Indus’ will also nurture space startups in India.
Chandrayaan-2 as an Inspiration
Chandrayaan-2 has brought the importance of Moon missions in the limelight. These missions are not only capable of fetching economic benefits but also further scientific advancements. For instance, various Moon missions, including Chandrayaan-1 mission, have discovered water on the lunar surface. Mineral resources have also been discovered by various Moon missions. Organisations working in space technology are also exploring the aspects of lunar settlements. In addition to this, ambitious venture like Chandrayaan-2 by India has definitely inspired the world. After the successful launch of the rocket carrying the Chandrayaan-2 into orbit, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the USA lauded Chandrayaan-2, saying India’s Moon mission has inspired the US space agency, which is keen to jointly explore the Solar system with ISRO. The New York Times newspaper lauded India’s ‘engineering prowess and decades of space development. Its report stated, “One of the successes of India’s space programme has been its cost-effectiveness. Chandrayaan-2 cost us $ 141 million, a small fraction of what the United States spent on its historic Apollo Moon mission.”
Present Status of Chandrayaan-2
The orbiter is successfully moving round the moon in its designated orbit. It is pontinuously transmitting data in the form of images to ISRO ground stations through various onboard sensors and cameras. On 30th July, 2020, the terrain mapping camera capture the Sarabhai crater on the North-East quadrant of the
Further Moon missions have been planned by ISRO, with another attempt at a landing by 2021, with Chandrayaan-3. The proposed configuration would include a detachable propulsion module, a lander and a rover, but not an orbiter. We hope that this time ISRO will meet with 100% success in the mission.
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