ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 to explore unvisited parts of the moon
This mission places India right behind the United States, Russia, and China on the list of countries to achieve a soft landing of a rover on the moon.
In 2008, India launched its first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1. Eleven years later its successor, Chandrayaan-2 -- India’s second mission to the moon -- is ready for launch on July 15 at 2.51 a.m. This is the Indian Space Research Organisation’s most complex mission yet!
In a press conference on June 12, K Sivan, the Chairman of ISRO, announced that Chandrayaan-2 will land on the moon near the South Pole -- a territory that has so far remained uncharted -- on September 6 or 7.
The launch is to take place on the indigenously developed Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV MK-III) that includes three modules -- a lunar orbiter, a lander (Vikram) and a rover (Pragyan). The spacecraft weighs 3.8 tonne and costs Rs 978 crore. However, the mission cost of Chandrayaan-2 with regard to the satellite alone is Rs 603 crore.
The mission will have a total of 14 instruments -- eight payloads, three landers and two rovers. Approximately 15 minutes after its launch, Chandrayaan-2 will be placed in an elliptical orbit around Earth. In the course of 15 days, its orbit will be raised significantly preparing it for a five-day travel towards the moon’s orbit. According to the ISRO, the Orbiter would go around the moon enabling a lander for a soft land at a predetermined site, close to the lunar South Pole, to deploy the rover. The entire distance is said to be 3,50,000 km.
The Chandrayaan-1 mission had 11 payloads -- five from India, three from Europe, two from the United States and one from Bulgaria. The mission was credited for the discovery of water on the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan-2 is an advanced version of the previous mission. The scientific payloads are expected to perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface. During the conference, Sivan thanked industry and academia for their contributions to the programme.
The launch faced a hiccup in 2013 when Russia’s Roscosmos space agency pulled out of the programme. Nearly 80 per cent of the organisation’s expenditure on the GSLV MK-III launcher was incurred by the industry. Additionally, the mission will carry an instrument for ranging by NASA as a mark of cooperation between NASA and ISRO.