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Explained: Chandrayaan 2, India's mission to lunar south pole

Sep 06, 2019 18:06 IST

As the Chandrayaan descends on the far side of the moon, are you ready for the unknown and the unseen? The Moon is perhaps the best link to Earth's early history. Extensive mapping of the lunar surface through Chandrayaan 2 will help researchers piece together key facts in tracing the Moon's origin and evolution. Also evidence of water molecules — discovered by Chandrayaan 1 — and the extent of its distribution on the lunar surface needs further studies. But most importantly, the South Pole of the Moon is a large section stays perpetually in a shadow, that is larger than the North Pole. Scientists believe that there is a possibility of the presence of water here. But what makes Chandrayaan-2 so special? It's India's first space mission to conduct a soft landing on the Moon's south pole. It's the first Indian mission to attempt a soft landing on the moon with its own technology. It's also the first Indian mission to explore the lunar terrain with home-grown technology. Not just that, Chandrayaan-2 puts India in an elite club of space-faring nations.. A successful landing would make India the 4th country to soft-land on the moon, a feat achieved only by the US, Russia and China. But the mission to the moon has not been easy... Chandrayaan-2 is the most complex robotic mission ISRO has ever attempted. Weighing 3.8 tonnes, its a 3-in-1 mission consisting of an orbiter, a lander and, a rover. Two Chandrayaan modules — the orbiter and the lander — were stacked together inside a launch vehicle equipped to lift heavy satellites into orbit. The third module, the lunar rover, will roll out onto the lunar surface on landing and operate for at least 14 days on the surface. ISRO has named the lander "Vikram", after India's space pioneer Vikram Sarabhai and the rover 'Pragyan', which in Sanskrit means wisdom. Chandrayaan-2 took off from Sriharikota on the heavy duty GSLV Mark III - nicknamed 'Baahubali'. The rocket then facilitated the orbiter's path to the lunar orbit, covering 385,000 kms from earth to moon in 50 days. After landing, the 6-wheel rover will roll out on the lunar surface at 1 cm per second. The landing area in South Pole was chosen as it has no craters or boulders and is nearly flat with very good visibility due to solar light. 'Pragyan' the rover will explore virgin territory on the lunar surface and analyse crust samples for signs of water and helium-3, an isotope is limited on Earth but abundant on the moon. If Helium 3 from the moon could be harnessed, theoretically, it could meet global energy demands for 250 years. But such a complex moon mission comes at a price. The cost of Chandrayaan-2 stands at a whopping Rs 978 crore, which includes Rs 603 crore for the orbiter, lander, rover, navigation and ground support and Rs 375 crore for the GSLV rocket with an indigenous cryogenic engine. What's at stake? National pride. ISRO's next big priority to is to put three Indian astronauts into orbit by 2022 ....and Chandrayaan-2 will expand India's galactic footprint.

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