India is giving final touches to its Chandrayaan-2 moon mission, and if all goes as planned, the country will join the elite club of moon landers in March 2018.
The word “Chandrayaan” is derived from two Sanskrit words — “Chandra” (the moon) and “Yaan” (craft/vehicle). So, Chandrayaan literally means a vehicle to visit the Moon. Chandrayaan-2 is India’s most ambitious moon mission so far. In 2008, the country launched its first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — a spacecraft that allowed the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to discover some “magmatic water” in a crater on the moon. The estimated cost of that mission was just $83 million. Unfortunately, the probe failed to complete its proposed length of two years and drifted away from lunar orbit just a few months after the launch. However, the spacecraft had accomplished nearly 80 percent of its mission tasks before losing contact with the space agency. In 2016, the spacecraft was discovered by NASA as a derelict spacecraft.
The latest Chandrayaan-2 mission will be launched through a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (MKII) from Sriharikota Island in India, a report by the Economic Times stated. This mission will carry a lunar orbiter, a lander, and a rover — allowing ISRO to have a precise, closer view of the surface of the Moon. The orbiter will circle the moon from an altitude of 100 km and will create a comprehensive 3-D map of the surface. The lander will facilitate the safe landing of the rover on the lunar surface.
The mission is expected to be completed in 14 Earth days. During these 14 days, the rover will move on the surface of the moon and carry out several experiments, including chemical analysis at different sites. ISRO is sending five scientific instruments to the moon to carry out these experiments. These instruments are (1) Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer, (2) Neutral Mass Spectrometer, (3) L and S-band Synthetic Aperture Radar, (4) Terrain Mapping Camera-2, and (5) Imaging IR Spectrometer. The results of the experiments will be sent back to the Earth by the orbiter.
The estimated cost of the Chandrayaan-2 mission is about $91 million, as reported by Nature. The mission will make India the first country to attempt a moon landing mission in the last four years. China had successfully landed an unmanned Yutu rover on the surface of the Moon in 2013, and before that, moon landings were accomplished by the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the 1970s. So far, the U.S. is the only country in the world to have landed humans on the moon. The last man who walked on the moon was NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, who accomplished this feat in 1972.
Apart from the moon mission, ISRO is also working on several other space programs, including the Aditya mission that aims to probe the sun. XPoSat is another ambitious project by ISRO. This satellite will work for five years in space and try to gather new information about cosmic radiation.