Chandrayaan 2: ISRO’s one step closer towards colonizing the Moon

Published: July 23, 2019 7:07:49 AM

Chandrayaan 2 latest updates: ISRO wants the country to benefit from the investments it has been making in such an ambitious programme. They are looking for the availability of various minerals on the Moon’s surface including Helium-3.

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By Dr Ajey Lele

Chandrayaan 2 mission latest news: We know very little about our own galaxy. Hence, there is a need to discover. However, the discovery of stars, planets, natural satellites (moons) and asteroids are possible only when different inventions in rocket science happen. India’s inroads in the deep space arena (the region beyond one lakh kms from the Earth’s surface out into space) should be viewed as an attempt to discover the galaxy. It is important to put India’s second mission to the Moon in this context too. India’s second mission to Moon, the Chandrayaan 2 has begun its 48 days journey towards the Moon on 22 July 2019. In fact, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) did receive a temporary setback on 15 July 2019 when it was required to call-off the mission 56 minutes before its planned take-off.

Also Read | Chandrayaan 2: Indian at heart and in spirit, PM Narendra Modi hails ISRO’s indigenously-developed mission

However, credit should be given to team ISRO for quickly identifying the technical glitch, working overtime to rectify it and then undertaking a successful launch only within seven days of time. This could be called as a delayed mission for a half a Moon-day. This is because one Moon-day is equivalent to 14 Earth days. Chandrayaan 2 has three major components: An Orbiter and a Lander and Rover system. The Orbiter, which would be operating from 100 Kms above the Moon’s surface has a designed life of one year and the Lander-Rover has a designed life of one Moon-day.

Moon’s distance from the Earth is approximately about 384,400 Kms. ISRO has successfully launched Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft into its planned orbit with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.7 Kms and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 45,475 km. Now, ISRO would be required to undertake a series of manoeuvres by using its onboard propulsion system to raise the orbit of the craft and place it in the Lunar Transfer Trajectory. Subsequently, the craft would enter into the Moon’s sphere of influence. At that time, its speed would be reduced for the purposes of Lunar Capture. Eventually, ISRO would ensure the positioning of Chandrayaan 2 around the Moon to circulate in a 100×100 km orbit through a series of orbital manoeuvres. Finally, by undertaking various complex manoeuvres like rough braking and fine braking, the Lander-Rover system would be landing on the Moon and observations would be taken minimum for one moon-day.

Chandrayaan 2 has 13 sensors which have different fictions. The Orbiter is having eight sensors. Broadly, these sensors are keen to gather knowledge about Moon’s evolution, would study mineralogy of the Moon, help to prepare the 3-dimensional maps of the lunar surface and study permanently shadowed regions. Also, there would be checks carried out in regards to the availability of Magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Calcium, Titanium, Iron and Sodium on the moon’s surface/interior. A dedicator sensor would try to find out the intensity of solar radiation. A specific sensor would help to identify the exact landing location for the Lander, based on a high-resolution image of the landing site. For this purpose, a digital elevation model would be generated.

The sensors on Lander-Rover unit would undertake a study of temperature near the lunar surface and 10 cm below the surface. In addition, there is an interest to know about the seismic activities on the Moon. The rover is expected to cover the very small distance (500 meters or less) on the moon surface and would try to identify the elemental composition of the surface under its travel.

India would be undertaking the mission over the South Pole of the Moon, which is mainly the shadow area, making it more prone to water availability. This mission would help India to further establish the findings of the earlier Chandrayaan 1 mission about water on the Moon.

There is a need to view India’s Moon programme under a wider canvas. This is not one or two missions programme. These are just initial steps. India should be viewed as a part of the global ambition of establishing a human colony on the Moon. Such a vision may take a few more decades to realise. However, Indian findings like water on the Moon, etc., could go a long way to actually help humanity towards realising its dream.

Also, ISRO wants the country to benefit from the investments it has been making in such an ambitious programme. They are looking for the availability of various minerals on the Moon’s surface including Helium-3. The Helium-3 has the potential for uses as fuel in future nuclear fusion power plants. This substance is available in a minuscule amount on the Earth’s surface, but majorly available on the Moon’s surface. ISRO’s Moon missions are also known to looking for Helium-3.

Possibly, ISRO’s third mission to the Moon is expected to be a sample return mission (could happen in collaboration with Japan). All these missions are making an incremental approach towards realising the dream of colonising the Moon and making excavation for minerals on the Moon for use on the Earth.

(Author is Senior Fellow, IDSA, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal)

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