India’s very own Chandrayaan 2 successfully blasted off yesterday. This accomplishment etched India in space history by being the only country to send a rocket to explore the south pole of the moon at a fraction of the cost of other similar rockets.
Chandrayaan 2 is set to land on the moon’s surface after 48 days through meticulously planned orbital phases. But till then, here are some facts you should be knowing about ISRO’s biggest space venture yet:
Chandrayaan 2 is the first lunar spacecraft that will explore the south pole of the moon, something that no country has ever done before. Chandrayaan 1, which was launched in 2008, helped confirm the presence of water on the moon’s surface. But the south pole of the moon is permanently shadowed and is reported to contain almost 250 tonnes of water ice in the numerous deep craters. Chandrayaan 2 aims to confirm these reports.
The efforts and contribution of project director M. Vanitha and mission director Ritu Karidhal have been tremendous. Karidhal was also the deputy operations director for Mangalyaan and is popularly known as “Rocket Woman Of India”. With this mission, M. Vanitha made history by becoming the first-ever female project director at ISRO.
You would think that a large-scaled lunar mission like this is bound to cost a whole lot of money. But on the contrary, the Chandrayaan 2 mission only cost Rs 960 Crore, making it the cheapest spacecraft ever built for a lunar mission of this scale. This might still seem like a lot, but to give you a clearer idea, the film Avengers: Endgame had a budget of more than Rs 2,400 Crore.
Chandrayaan consists of an orbiter, lander and rover. Vikram is the lander module that will station itself on the surface of the moon. It contains the rover Pragyan within itself and will deploy it as soon as it successfully lands on the moon’s surface. It is named after the father of the Indian space programme, Vikram Sarabhai.
Pragyan is a six-wheeled rover that has the duty of scouting the surface and directly communicating the information to Vikram. All these parts will carry a series of payloads that will study various aspects like lunar topography, seismography, mineral identification, surface chemical composition and temperatures of the moon.
ISRO wanted to test the rover Pragyan on surfaces and conditions similar to that of the moon. The moon’s surface is covered with dust, sharp rocks, deep craters and is composed of soil with a very different texture. Importing that kind of lunar soil from the US would cost a lot, according to a report by IANS. But quite a few geologists told ISRO that an area near Salem in Tamil Nadu consisted of “anorthosite” rocks that have features similar to the moon soil. ISRO decided to get these “anorthosite” rocks to Bengaluru, where they were crushed and incorporated in the testbed of the Lunar Terrain Test Facility.
The moon is a living floating piece of evidence. The craters and particles are scars of the ever-changing universe and they could tell us a lot about our past. Pragyan the rover will scan the topsoil by blasting it with lasers. Apart from water, Pragyan will be searching for elements that could have been part of a magma ocean from almost four billion years ago.
Header Credit – Instagram, (@isro.in)