New Delhi: Chandrayaan-2, India’s most ambitious second lunar mission to be launched on July 15, will be the first of its kind as it will shed light on a completely unexplored section of the Moon – its South Polar region.
Leveraging nearly a decade of scientific research and engineering development, the mission is aimed at helping in better understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon by conducting detailed topographical studies, comprehensive mineralogical analyses, and a host of other experiments on the lunar surface.
It will explore the topography of the moon and its composition and will search for water besides conducting in-situ studies.
Chandrayaan-2 will be launched from Satish Dhawan Space CentRE at Sriharikota on-board heavy-lift rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle – Mark III (GSLV Mk III), nicknamed as ‘Bahubali’, at 2.51 a.m. on July 15. The Lander, Vikram, will land near South Pole of the moon on September 6.
Subsequently, the Rover will roll out and carry out experiments on Lunar surface for a period of one Lunar day, which is equal to 14 Earth days. The Orbiter will continue its mission for one year.
The Orbiter payloads will conduct remote-sensing observations from a 100 km orbit while the Lander and Rover payloads will perform in-situ measurements near the landing site.
The lunar South Pole is especially interesting because of the lunar surface area here, that remains in shadow, is much larger than that at the North Pole, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which is making preparations for the successful launch.
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, it said.
What makes Chandrayaan-2 special is that it is the first space mission to conduct a soft landing on the Moon’s South Polar region. It is also the first Indian expedition to attempt soft landing on the lunar surface with home-grown technology.
Other specialities of the mission are that it is the first to explore the lunar terrain with home-grown technology and India will be the fourth country ever to carry out soft landing on the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan-2 will “boldly go where no country has ever gone before — the Moon’s South Polar region”, according to the ISRO.
“Through this effort, the aim is to improve our understanding of the Moon — discoveries that will benefit India and humanity as a whole. These insights and experiences aim at a paradigm shift in how lunar expeditions are approached for years to come — propelling further voyages into the farthest frontiers.
“Chandrayaan-2 attempts to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances, and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists,” the space agency added.
Chandrayaan-2 has several science payloads to expand the lunar scientific knowledge through detailed study of topography, seismography, mineral identification and distribution, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics of top soil and composition of the tenuous lunar atmosphere, leading to a new understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon.
“This mission will help us gain a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon by conducting detailed topographical studies, comprehensive mineralogical analyses, and a host of other experiments on the lunar surface,” the ISRO said.
“While there, we will also explore discoveries made by Chandrayaan-1, such as the presence of water molecules on the Moon and new rock types with unique chemical composition. Through this mission, we aim to expand India’s footprint in space, surpass international aspirations and inspire a future generation of scientists, engineers and explorers.”
About the scientific objectives of Chandrayaan-2 and reasons for exploring the Lunar South Pole, the ISRO says the Moon provides the best linkage to Earth’s early history and offers an undisturbed historical record of the inner Solar system environment.
“Though there are a few mature models, the origin of Moon still needs further explanations,” the space agency said.
“Extensive mapping of lunar surface to study variations in lunar surface composition is essential to trace back the origin and evolution of the Moon. Evidence for water molecules discovered by Chandrayaan-1, requires further studies on the extent of water molecule distribution on the surface, below the surface and in the tenuous lunar exosphere to address the origin of water on Moon.”