After Chandrayaan I, the Made in India lunar exploration mission ‘Chandrayaan II’ is a huge technological advancement which Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) made on 22nd July 2019 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. The objective to launch the satellite was to explore the unexplored south pole of the Moon and enhance the existing lunar knowledge. Chandrayaan II was supposed to study Moon’s topography, seismography, mineral identification and distribution. Chandrayaan II comprised an Orbiter, Vikram Lander and Pragyam Rover. India would have been the first to land a rover on the moon’s surface, had the mission been successful.
What we will explore in this article?
- Some Important Facts About Chandrayaan II
- The Three Main Organs of Chandrayaan II
- Important components of the Mooncraft and their Functions
- The Ill Fate of Vikram
“The last time I had come to Bengaluru,was when the eyes of the nation were set on Chandrayaan II, the manner in which our nation celebrated science and the strength of our scientist will always be a part of my memory.”- PM Narendra Modi while addressing the 107th session of Indian National Congress event at GKVK Campus in Bengaluru.
Some Important Facts about Chandrayaan II
- Chandrayaan I the predecessor of the above mentioned mission, indicated water presence on the moon, triggering interest to know more about our natural satellite.
- After USA, Russia and China, India became the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon.
- Chandrayaan II has cost ISRO a total of 978 crore, making this lunar exploratory mission one of the cheapest.
- The launch vehicle was made in India, Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV MkIII, India’s most powerful launcher), which sent the 3850 kg mooncraft to complete the mission.
- Women again showcased their talent and leadership in this mission.
Director: Ritu Karidhal
Project Director: Vanitha M.
- It was the first attempt for any nation to soft land a spacecraft on the south pole of the lunar surface and operate a rover on the Moon.
The Three Main Organs of Chandrayaan II
The Mooncraft’s Orbiter is orbiting the Moon at a height of 100 km. It is a carrier of eight very significant scientific instruments. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd manufactured the structure of Chandrayaan’s Orbiter. Its launch mass was approximately 2379 kg.
Named after the name of the founder of the Indian Space Programme Shri Vikram Sarabhai, the Vikram Lander was supposed to soft land the lunar surface so that it could deploy a robotic rover there. It carried four scientific instruments.
Named as ‘Pragyan’ (meaning wisdom),it was designed to operate on solar energy. This six wheeled robotic rover was supposed to conduct on site analysis to send the data to the lander, which would ultimately convey it to the Mission Control on Earth. It had two scientific instruments attached to it. Notably the rear wheels of the Rover had ISRO logo and Emblem of India, such that the lunar surface would have patterned tracks if the Rover moved over it after being deployed by Vikram Lander.
Important Components of the Mooncraft and their Functions
With the objective of expanding the existing knowledge of the Moon, latest technologies and theories have been applied. We will go through the key payloads of Chandrayaan II.
- Chandrayaan II Large Area Soft X-Ray Spectrometer- To study the elemental composition of the Moon.
- Imaging IR Spectrometer- Mineralogy mapping and water- for ice confirmation.
- Synthetic Aperture Radar L&S Band- For Polar Region Mapping and Subsurface Ice/Water Confirmation.
- Orbiter High Resolution Camera- For high-resolution topography mapping.
- Moon’s Surface Thermo Physical Experiment- To study thermal conductivity and temperature gradient.
- Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy- For in-situ elemental analysis and abundance in the vicinity of the landing site.
The Ill-Fate of Vikram
The Lander ‘Vikram’ was scheduled to soft land on the moon’s surface on 6th September, 2019. Unfortunately, it’s trajectory deviated from the programmed path and hard landed on the moon’s surface with a rough speed of 58m/s. ISRO tried to establish connection with Vikram for fourteen days, which was the life span for the lander. Even NASA sent radio frequencies with the aid of its deep space network ground stations based in California, Madrid and Canberra. The agency also captured pictures of the lander with the help of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter circling the moon’s orbit.
The space agency lost all hopes after fourteen earth nights in the South Pole of the Moon, because it knew that the lander and the rover would be unable to bear the low temperatures (as low as -240 degree Celsius) and must have got damaged.
Though the efforts of the scientists weren’t able to reach their ultimate goal, ISRO addressed it positively and tweeted ‘Thank You for standing by us. WE will continue to keep going forward- Propelled by the dreams and hopes of Indians across the World’. It also declared that the orbiter was in an excellent state and would keep continuing its assigned activities.
Ending With a Positive Note
It was a heartbreaking moment for every Indian and especially all those who had worked hard to make this mission successful, but it is rightly said that the show must go on! ISRO took it very positively, thanks to the leadership of ISRO Chief Kailasvadivoo Sivan. All the focus has been shifted to the functioning of Chandrayaan’s Orbiter which carries eight highly advanced scientific instruments.
It would also address other missions aiming to set new milestones. Aditya (Sun) L I, Venus or Shukrayaan, Gaganyaan or Human Spaceflight mission, Mangalyaan 2, Indo-Japan (JAXA) Joint Lunar Polar Mission are some of the programmes the agency is dedicating itself to.
In January 2020, ISRO’s Chief addressed a press conference in Bangalore, and announced the possibility of the launch of a third lunar mission Chandrayaan III in 2021. The mission like its predecessor would have an Orbiter, a Lander and a Rover. He also gave an estimated cost of the project as 250 crores. So lets expect a successful mission this time.