Chandrayaan-2 launch (File Photo)
Chandrayaan-2, India's second lunar mission, was successfully launched on July 22, 2019 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on-board GSLV Mk-III. It is to be noted that with Chandrayaan-2’s ‘Vikram’ module will make a historic soft-landing on the Moon on September 7. Chandrayaan-2’s lander ‘Vikram’, with rover ‘Pragyan’ housed in it, is scheduled for a powered-descent between 1 am and 2 am on September 7, followed by its touchdown between 1.30 am and 2.30 am. Following the landing, the rover ‘Pragyan’ will roll out from ‘Vikram’ between 5.30 am and 6.30 am. The historic Chandrayaan-2 mission will target a completely unexplored section of the Moon that is its “South Polar region - Aitken Basin”.
By conducting topographical studies and mineralogical analyses alongside a few other experiments on the Moon’s Surface, the ISRO’s ambitious mission aims to get a better understanding of the Moon’s origin and its evolution. According to ISRO, the mission Chandrayaan-2 will also nurture the findings of Chandrayaan 1. The mission is being considered as a challenge since no space agency has ever explored the South Polar Region of the Moon.
Here’s the reasons why Chandrayaan-2 is on a mission to explore the Moon’s South Polar Region and why it’s a huge challenge for ISRO:
The Dark Side of the moon & importance of exploring it:
The far side of the Moon is the hemisphere of the Moon that always faces away from Earth. It has one of the largest craters in the Solar System, the South Pole–Aitken basin. As the craters remain dark, they have higher chances of containing water.The bottom of the polar craters of remain under shadows permanently because of the low angular tilt of the axis. Hence the temperature at the poles remains frigid, hitting as low as -248 degree Celsius. That makes it among the lowest temperatures in the Solar System. The sunlight strikes at very low angles in the Polar Regions and thus the craters might have never received sunlight, thereby increasing the chances of presence of ice on such surfaces.
The Moon’s South Pole is more interesting as the lunar surface area at the south pole of the Moon that remains in shadow is much larger than that of its north pole. This increases the possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it.
Totally Unexplored Territory:
No space agency has ever explored the South Polar Region of the Moon. So far in all the space missions, no country has ever attempted to land a spacecraft in the polar regions of the moon. As the South Polar Region is far, it is totally unexplored till now which could give India a lead in space exploration on an international level. The South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System.
Dubbed as ‘Baahubali’, the GSLV Mk-III rocket stands 43 metres tall. In Chandrayaan-2, a total of 13 payloads are distributed across the three modules where the Orbiter and Vikram Lander are stacked upon each other whereas the Pragyan Rover is housed inside the lander. The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft weighs approximately 3290 kilograms. The cost of the mega-project is Rs 978 crore.
Importantly, if successful, the mission will make India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to pull off a soft landing on the Moon. Earlier, Israel failed in its maiden attempt to soft land on the moon through a Beresheet spacecraft, which crashed after reaching very close to the lunar surface.