Chandrayaan-2, India’s second Moon mission was launched on July 22. Chandrayaan-2 will be the first mission to land a rover near the lunar South Pole. The launch was previously scheduled for July 15 but had to be called off due to a technical snag. The mission follows the Chandrayaan-1 mission which was launched about 10 years ago. Chandrayaan-2, which was launched from Sriharikota, Andra Pradesh, includes a lander and a rover for the first time in an Indian space mission. The moon landing is scheduled for September 6/7.
According to ISRO sources, Chandrayaan-2 weighs around 3,290 kg. It would orbit around the moon and carry out remote sensing of the moon. According to ISRO, “The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.”
The spacecraft has an orbiter, a lander (Vikram), and a rover (Pragyan). The lander and the rover have the Tricolour painted on them. The Ashoka Chakra has been imprinted on the rover’s wheels.
The mission cost `603 crore for the spacecraft system and `375 crore for the launcher, which is a GSLV-MKIII. The total cost of Chandrayaan-2 is approximately $140 million, which is less than that of Hollywood movies like Interstellar orAvengers: Endgame.
The orbiter, with scientific payloads, would go around the Moon. The lander would soft-land on the Moon at a predetermined site and deploy the rover. Instruments on the lander and the rover would carry out scientific experiments. The scientific payloads are expected to perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface. The orbiter and the lander are interfaced mechanically and stacked together as an integrated module and accommodated inside the GSLV MK-III whereas the rover is housed inside the lander.
According to ISRO sources, the integrated module will reach the Moon orbit using the orbiter propulsion module, and subsequently, the lander will separate from the orbiter and soft-land at the predetermined site, close to the lunar South Pole. The rover would then roll out.
The lunar South Pole is believed to contain ice and other minerals and is the focus of many international space expedition plans. NASA is planning to land astronauts there by 2024 while China reportedly plans to build a scientific research station on the lunar South Pole within the next decade. The lunar South Pole is larger than the North Pole and remains largely unexplored and there are chances of finding evidence of water on the South Pole which makes the mission all the more significant. ISRO sources stated, “The six-wheeled rover will move around the landing site in semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands. The instruments on the rover will observe the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil.”
Of the 14 payloads that Chandrayaan-2 is carrying to the moon, 13 are indigenous and one is a passive payload of NASA. ISRO Chairman K Sivan said, “ NASA’s passive payload - Laser Retro reflector (LRA), integrated with Vikram lander will be carried for free and help calculate the distance between the earth and the moon. It will also find the exact location of the lander on the Moon. This NASA payload will work for long - even after the moon landing - and NASA will share the data generated from this payload with us.”
Another significant reason that makes this mission special is the fact that for the first time, ISRO has two women leading the mission - Ritu Karidhal and Muthayya Vanitha. ISRO Chairman K. Sivan, said in a press conference on June 12, that close to 30% of the team working on Chandrayaan-2 comprise of women.