Moon Landing 50th Anniversary: Lunar Rover – From 1st car to drive on Moon to one sent in India’s Chandrayaan-2

India's Chandrayan 2 is an orbiter-lander-rover mission, which means it will orbit the Moon before the lander parks itself on the Moon's South pole and then a rover will roll out to explore the South pole of the Moon and collect data.

By:Updated: July 22, 2019 4:51:30 PM
chandryan 2 lunar rover india moon landingChandryan 2 with Pragyan rover (Graphical representation; image: ISRO)

The world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing that happened on 20 July 1969 when Eagle module from Apollo 11 landed Tranquility Base. Hours later, Neil Armstrong had his name forever etched in the books of history as the first man to walk on the Moon. I realise this is a motoring website and I promise there will be cars, eventually. Well, they will be a different kind.

What started out as an ambition fueled by US’s Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union, the mission is now one of the most iconic moments for stargazers across our planet. To mark the occasion, Nasa streamed the footage of the launch that happened 50 years ago. And today i.e. on 22nd July 2019, we watched live footage of another lift-off – India’s Chandrayaan 2 is now en route towards the Moon.

India’s Chandrayaan 2 is an orbiter-lander-rover mission, which means it will orbit the Moon before the lander parks itself on the Moon’s South pole and then a rover will roll out to collect more data. See, I told you I’ll bring in cars of a sort.

Speaking on lunar rovers or moon buggies if you will, the one driven by US astronauts still sits on the surface of the Moon. That is how the iconic footage of the Apollo 11’s liftoff from the Lunar surface was taken.

chandryan 2 lunar rover india moon landing 50th anniversaryThe US Apollo Lunar Rover from Apollo 15 on the Moon in 1971 (Photo: By NASA/Dave Scott)

The rover used in the US Apollo missions was a battery-powered four-wheeler that could carry two astronauts, their equipment and lunar samples. The US has sent three Lunar Rovers to the Moon (Apollo 15, 16 and 17), which are all still there. So, the next time you look at the Moon, know that there are three ‘cars’ parked on it.

And when you look at the Moon after 7th September, there will be a rover sent by India scampering along on the surface. There is plausible reasoning for why we’re aiming at exploring the south pole. I suppose ISRO will word it better: The lunar South Pole is especially interesting because of the surface area here that remains in shadow is 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, the South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System.

chandryan 2 lunar rover india moon landing pragyanPhoto: ISRO

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 a latitude of about 70° south.

To honor and celebrate the legends of the Apollo 11 mission, Polaris Industries collaborated with the US Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) in Huntsville, Alabama to create a working replica of the Lunar Rover. As the No. 1 in off-road vehicles, this was the ultimate off-road project for Polaris.

chandryan 2 lunar rover india moon landing 50th anniversary polaris moon buggyPolaris Moon Buggy biology

The replica brakes, accelerates, and has four-wheel Ackermann steering, like the original NASA Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV). The fenders were fiberglass molded using the original 50-year old molds that produced the parts that are on the moon. The replica, however, is much faster than the original.

You may also like: Toyota’s next off-roader could drive on the Moon in 2029

Chandrayaan 2’s lander is expected to last about one Lunar day or 14 Earth days in which the rover will explore the terrain – which is of great scientific interest due to the rocks’ old age. At four billion years old, scientists say the zone likely is composed of an ancient magma ocean.

Called Pragyan Rover, it is a six-wheeled semi-autonomous vehicle that uses solar energy for various functions. The rover has an AI system and can communicate with the lander. It can obviously do a lot more like collecting essential data but for that, you must head to a science portal.

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