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India’s Indigenous Lunar Mission Chandrayaan-2 Is Set To Land Near The South Pole In 2019

India’s Indigenous Lunar Mission Chandrayaan-2 Is Set To Land Near The South Pole In 2019

Disha Misal

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One of the most anticipated projects of the Indian space industry is undisputedly the Chandrayaan-2. A decade after India’s first attempt to study moon with Chandrayaan-1, ISRO will launch its second version on January 31 2019.

In this article, we list down the reasons why the upcoming Chandrayaan 2 will be a remarkable milestone for India.



How Is This Lunar Mission Different From Chandrayaan-1?

Although Chandrayaan-2 is a follow-up of Chandrayaan-1 mission, both had different objectives. Chandrayaan-1 had only orbited the moon, did not land on it. Hence, it did not have a rover in its mission. Chandrayaan-2 is a combination of a rover, lander and an orbiter. The orbiter will orbit around the moon and perform the objective of remote sensing the moon.The mission will carry a six-wheeled rover that will move around the landing site in semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands. The instrument on the rover will collect the data from the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil.  Also, unlike Chandrayaan-1’s moon Impact Probe, the Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-2 will make a soft landing, deploy the rover, and perform some scientific activities such as checking for the presence of water ice on the moon.

Why Is It So Special?

There are broadly two key features that play a major role in making this mission stand out among other moon missions:

First rover: This is the very first time that India is going to land a rover on the Moon, or any other celestial surface for that matter. This is also India’s first attempt in developing a lander. Besides China’s Chang’e-4 soft landing to the Moon, no other country achieved a successful landing at the place where Chandrayaan-2 is planned to land at the South Pole.

The site: The landing site of Chandrayaan-2 is at the south pole of the moon. The site is above 70 degree latitude and no satellite in the world has ever reached this place. What is so significant about this site is that the area remains in shadow is much larger at this pole, and also because of the presence of water ice. On the other hand, the pole also has places with permanent sunlight. Sending a rover here would give us insights on both, the darkness regions as well as the sunlight regions. Although there have been attempts of studying this area from space, no rover has ever landed at this unexplored site. The pole is also a home to the Cabeus crater, where LCROSS impacted in 2009, as well as the Aitken Basin, which contains impact melt that will allow scientists to unambiguously determine the basin’s age, plus Shackleton crater, the region touted as the perfect place for future outposts and huge telescopes. The south pole contains mountains such as Epsilon Peak which is taller than any mountain found on earth.

Vikram: The lander of Chandrayaan-2 called Vikram, will detach from the orbiter and descend into a lunar orbit of 30 km x 100 km (19 mi x 62 mi) using its 800 N (180 lbf) liquid main engines. It will then perform a comprehensive check of its on-board systems before attempting to land on the lunar surface.


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ISRO is making an engine which will make it easier for scientists to control land a spacecraft on the moon surface. ISRO had created a man-made crater in order to simulate the moon surface. The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.

Chandrayaan-2 landing site.

Key Challenges For This Lunar Mission

More than 50 missions to the moon have failed, including Apollo 13. The mission was initially planned in 2013, but it faced many challenges because of which it has been now finally scheduled to launch in 2019.

Soft landing: Soft landing challenges can cause ISRO a delay in executing this mission. The site at which it is determined to land has many craters, hence it is difficult to land. Earlier this year, the lander had trouble with throttling. “The lander was developing vibrations at the time of re-throttling. The problem appears to be with the thrusters,” a senior level official at ISRO had said.

Russia Lander plan went kaput: There was a deal with the Russian Space agency to launch Chandrayaan-2, where Russia was supposed to make the lander and India was supposed to make the orbiter and the rover. But since Russia had to postpone because of some issues, ISRO decided to build the lander, along with the rover and the orbiter.

Fifth liquid engine: One of the major challenge was the integration of the fifth liquid engine to manage the additional load of the lander which now has to orbit the Moon, lander legs, rover integration, modified harness, and so on. The fifth engine had failed a heat test. It also had extended solar panels at about 350 meters, which was casting a shadow on the rover and would have caused a problem getting solar charged as soon as it lands.

Outlook

Chandrayaan-2 will open up new opportunities for new tech and scientific achievements for India. There will be many experiments and test plans for the moon mission. Considering the exotic site at which the the rover is going to land, it is sure that the mission is going to give the world some very deep discoveries.

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