Chandrayan – 2, A Lunar mission by Indian Space Research organisation

Chandra – means moon in sanskrit. Chandrayan – the mooncraft

Chandrayan- 2, created by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), is the 1st space mission to conduct a soft- landing on the moon’s South Polar Region, a region that is yet unexplored.

The moon being our closest cosmic body for space discovery is the best testing place to demonstrate the technologies required for future deep- space missions. It will also provide an invaluable linkage to Earth’s early history. The moon also contains an undisturbed historic record of the inner solar system environment. The Chandrayan -2 mission will therefore bring forth valuable data regarding space research. It will also look for evidence of water molecules below the lunar surface and atmosphere.

Chandrayan – 2 mission was approved by the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh on 18th September, 2008. It was launched on 22nd July, 2019 at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Second Launch Pad. The lander Vikram was programed to soft land on moon’s South Polar Region on 7th September, 2019. and conduct scientific experiments for 1 lunar day, or 14 earth days. The orbital experiments were to continue thereafter for 1 year.

The lunar South Pole has long remained undiscovered, something that this mission is about to change. The South Pole is much larger than the lunar North Pole and there is an exciting possibility of presence of water in the permanently shadowed areas of the region. It also has craters that are cold traps and may contain a fossil record of the inner solar system. This mission will not only give a clearer picture of the earth’s past but will also pave the way for future deep space missions.

Chandrayan – 2 attempted to soft land Lander Vikram and Rover Pragyan in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N at latitude of about 70o  South. However, at 1:51 am, Saturday, The lander Vikram went incommunicado just minutes before it was to land on the lunar surface. the communication was lost 2 km away from the moon. The lander had hard landed very close to the scheduled touchdown site. On Sunday the orbiter found the lander and clicked images of it in a tilted position but still intact. Though the signals remained elusive, efforts were on to establish communication.

ISRO Chairman K.Shivan announced on the 7th , that 90- 95% of the missions objective has already been achieved. The orbiter will now have a life span of over seven and half years and not a single year as there is still a lot of fuel left. Isro may later decide to lower the orbiters altitude to get better views of the lunar surface.

Pragyan rover pic from Isro site.

This mission is a remarkable example of ISRO’s technological sufficiency as it completely depends on home –grown technology.

  • The launcher used was GSLV Mark III, (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle). The GSLV Mark III is ISRO’s most powerful launcher, often hailed as ‘Bahubali’(The strong armed one).
  • The orbiter is placed in a 100 x 100 km lunar orbit.
  • The Lander, Vikram,( named after Vikram A. Sarabhai the father of Indian space program) was designed to execute soft landing on the lunar surface and was supposed to communicate with ISDN (Indian Deep Space Network) at Byalalu, as well as with the orbiter and the rover.
  • The rover – Pragyan (wisdom in Sanskrit)– was a 6 wheeled robotic vehicle that could travel upto ½ km and use solar energy. It was programed to conduct in–situ payload experiments.

The technology and algorithm are all proudly indigenous.

The ISRO and its missions have come a long way from the days when rocket parts were transported using bullock carts. It is a wonderful representative of the will to overcome all underpriviledges and emerge shining. In its ingenuity and self sufficiency, the mission of Chandrayan -2 proudly displays the fact that, as we reach for the moon, our future lies beyond the stars.

Pictures from Chandrayan- 2 form ISRO site.

Ref: Isro; TOI.

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