Chandrayaan 2 is ready to make history on 22nd July 2019. India’s Lunar dream started taking shape in April 2003, when over 100 premier scientists from different backgrounds like physics, chemistry, astronomy, astrophysics and engineering and communication came together to discuss the idea of launching a Lunar probe to the moon. They approved a Task Force to accomplice the same. India’s lunar expedition got green flag when then Prime Minister, Shri Atal Vihari Vajpaaye announced on 15th August 2003 that India will send a Lunar Orbiter and Rover mission to Moon over a period of time.
India’s Lunar dream started taking shape in April 2003, when over 100 premier scientists from different backgrounds like physics, chemistry, astronomy, astrophysics and engineering and communication came together to discuss the idea of launching a Lunar probe to the moon. They approved a Task Force to accomplice the same. India’s lunar expedition got green flag when then Prime Minister, Shri Atal Vihari Vajpaaye announced on 15th August 2003 that India will send a Lunar Orbiter and Rover mission to Moon over a period of time.
Chandrayaan 1 probe was launched on October 22, 2008, by INDIAN SPACE RESEARCH ORGANISATION (ISRO) from Satish Dhawan Space Port, aboard Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). This probe had two parts; first part consisted of ORBITER which would provide knowledge about moon’s geology whereas second part was of MOON IMPACT PROBE which would show the capability of India in reaching specified lunar landing location and soft-land for further operations. Orbiter reached in moon’s orbit on November 2008. It impacted the lunar surface on 14 November 2008. It started orbiting moon at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface.
The main objective of the mission was to show the capability of developing a spacecraft which could travel to the moon and perform scientific experiments like the study of GEOLOGY OF MOON through experimental instrument onboard for coming two years. Then it would impact the lunar surface.
But unfortunately, due to unknown reasons, ISRO lost contact with the orbiter on 28 August 2009 and mission was declared over. It lasted for only about half of its specified mission life but according to ISRO, it completed 95% of the assigned tasks. It made a major discovery of the presence of water molecules on the moon.
ISRO had started preparation of Chandrayaan 2 back in 2007
The Chandrayaan 2 mission was approved in September 2008 with an initial budget of Rs 425 crore. The premier space agency made a contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS) to work together on the project. According to contract, the Russian partner was supposed to provide Lander and rover probes while Orbiter’s responsibility was laid on the shoulders of ISRO. A design was collectively completed by ISRO and ROSC0SMOS and was jointly reviewed. The mission was set to be launch in the fiscal year 2015 but Russian agency was unable to complete the project on time and it postponed. The cause was the failure of its PHOBOS-GRUNT LANDER on which the technical aspects of Chandrayaan-2’s Lander were to be based on. Russian engineers have warned that if the mission continued using their Lander, there was a high chance of mission failure as they have found major glitches in the system.
Hence, India started pursuing its indigenous Orbiter and Lander. ISRO developed a 20 kg, semi-autonomous rover and named it PRAGYAAN and Lander is named VIKRAM after great Indian scientist, Shree Vikram Sara Bhai.
Various tests of the rover were done in a test facility at Challakere Science, Bangalore city after creating an artificial surface of the moon which was inspired by the photos taken from previous Chandrayaan mission. These tests included LAUNCHER ACTUATOR PERFORMANCE TEST (LAPT), which was a crucial test in the completion of soft landing of the Lander; Parabolic Trajectory re-targeting test which demonstrated the capability of VIKRAM to meet, safe and precise landing by steering the Lander horizontally as well as vertically down to a pre-defined landing location. Other tests which were related to vehicle mobility on the lunar surface were also performed to ensure the 100 % success rate of the mission.
Again, on 15TH July 2019, just before launching of GSLV MKIII, it developed a snag. Later, it was found that O-ring which was used to join two different parts together, malfunctioned. [For, readers; here’s a video of Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, 1986 which was also caused by the malfunctioning of the O-ring.]
ISRO aborted the mission and released an official comment which says that next launch date will be announced in approximately 10 days. Once again, another chance of creating history was missed.
VIKRAM LANDER PAYLOAD
- Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) Seismometer by LEOS for studying Moon-quakes near the landing site.
- Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (Chaste) Thermal probe for estimating the thermal properties of the lunar surface.
- RAMBHA-LP Langmuir probe for measuring the density and variation of lunar surface plasma.
- A laser retroreflector array (LRA) by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for precise measurements of the Earth-Moon distance and lunar libration.
It will act as a relay point between rover PRAGYAAN and ISRO DEEP SATELLITE NETWORK as PRAGYAAN don’t have the capability of communicating independently by itself.
PRAGYAAN ROVER PAYLOAD
- Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) from Laboratory for Electro Optic Systems (LEOS), Bangalore.
- Alpha Particle Induced X-ray Spectroscopy (APXS) from PRL, Ahmadabad.
Geo Synchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV MK III )is planned to take off from Sri Satish Dhawan Space Station with Chandrayaan 2 and another 12 payloads on its Lunar journey. It will be inserted in Earth Parking Orbit in a perigee of 40,000 km by apogee of 100 kilometers. Then, it will start orbiting the earth in that orbit and gradually on its 17th day of orbiting, it will be hurled towards the moon’s orbit trajectory which will take about 5 days. After insertion in lunar orbit after 22 days, Orbiter will orbit the moon for another 28 days in an elliptical polar orbit of 100 KMs. On day 50, Vikram Lander will be separated from Orbiter and its deboosting phase will start which will decrease the velocity of Lander. On day 54, the landing procedure will take over. Lander will start descending towards the lunar surface in an orbit of 30 km * 100 km with help of its 800 N main liquid rocket engines which will steer it to the pre-defined landing location. ISRO has identified two craters for the purpose. While landing, sensors of VIKRAM will confirm if the surface is plane enough for the lander to land or confirm if their foreign materials are there who can create problem in landing. In this scenario, the lander will move to the neighborhood location and check if that location is viable for landing, all these operations will be performed in seconds.
OBJECTIVES OF CHANDRAYAAN-2 MISSION
- The main objective of the mission is to map the lunar surface and generate data for the construction of a 3D map for future missions and show capability of a soft landing.
- Rover will perform on-spot chemical experiments for the study of the surface of the moon.
- Onboard instruments to be used for analyzing the effect of solar radiation on the lunar surface. The density of the ions’ will also be studied.
- Onboard instruments like radars on Orbiter and Lander will execute procedures to determine the thickness of ice caps on the polar region of the moon.
From the founding of ISRO IN 1962 to the launching of ARYABHATT, the first satellite of India to development of cryogenic engines indigenously which enabled further development of PSLV and GSLV launch vehicles, to the successful accomplishment of two consecutive
CHNADRAYAAN 1 AND MARS ORBITER MISSION (MOM), Indian space armada has travelled a long journey. ISRO and their scientist have proved themselves from time to time by accomplishing these aspects. They have demonstrated the world that these space missions can be performed in a more economical way. While NASA implanted approx 10 times more dollars to reach to the moon than ISRO did. The operational budget of MOM was way less than the budget of Hollywood film Gravity while the budget of Chandrayaan 2 is only Rs 800 crore while the most famed movie of 2019; Avengers: ENDGAME was completed with an approx budget of Rs 2,210 corers. More than half budget of Chandrayaan 2 was assigned for the orbiter, lander, and rover while nearly Rs 300 crore was assigned for the Launch vehicle GSLV MKIII. India would have created history as the first nation to land on the pole of the moon while fourth nation after the USA, former USSR and China to land on the surface of the moon if the malfunction in launch vehicle hadn’t happened on 15th July 2019. Scientists at ISRO should be praised for discovering the problem right before the launch which prevented a major disaster.