Chandrayaan 2 latest update: ISRO has provided an update that the fifth Earthbound orbit-raising maneuver for Chandryaan-2 spacecraft has been performed successfully on 06 August 19 at 3.27pm (IST) as planned and all spacecraft parameters are normal. Further, the next orbit-raising maneuver is scheduled on August 6, 2019, between 2.30-3.30 pm (IST). With the Moon directed ‘slingshot’ approach of the Chandrayaan 2 progressing as per schedule, the maiden touch down on the South Pole in early September’ 19 by its Lander and Rover is a keenly awaited moment now.
Even though various Lunar missions have been in progress by the USA, Russia (erstwhile USSR), Japan, the European Space Agency and China over the last half a century, to date the South Pole region, has been unexplored by a probe on its surface. India shall be the first to achieve this by soft landing the Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragayan) in between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at 70 degrees South latitude.
Chandrayaan 2 Scientific Payloads
Chandrayaan 2 mission is designed for a series of scientific experiments planned using special to type test equipment mounted on Orbiter, Lander and the Rover module. These scientific payloads are:-
Terrain Mapping Camera for mapping the Lunar surface in the panchromatic spectrum. The results shall help in creating 3D maps of Lunar surface to deduce Moon’s evolutionary process.
Large Area soft X-ray Spectrometer to detect Mg, Al, Si, Ca, Ti and Na molecules on the surface using characteristic X-rays emitted by each when activated by solar energy.
Solar X-ray meter (XSM) measures X-rays from the Sun and its corona, and calculate the solar radiation intensity.
High-Resolution Camera onboard captures high-resolution images of the landing site for a safe Lander touch down. Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) of the landing site is created to identify craters or boulders at touch down area.
Imaging IR Spectrometer shall carry out global mineralogical and volatile mapping of Lunar surface and for complete characterization of water/hydroxyl features.
Dual-frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (DFSAR) for high-resolution lunar mapping in Polar regions, quantitative estimation of water-ice in the polar regions and bedrock thickness measurements.
Atmospheric Composition Explorer Spectrometer for exosphere composition & distribution study
Dual Frequency Radio Science (DFRS) experiment for electron density distribution in the Lunar ionosphere.
Radio Anatomy of Moon Hypersensitive ionosphere & Atmosphere (RAMBHA) to study Lunar ionosphere which is a dynamic plasma environment as per Solar conditions.
Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) to measure temperature gradient and thermal conductivity on the Lunar surface using probe inserted up to 10cm on Lunar bedrock.
The instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity is a tri-axial seismometer to measure Lunar quakes.
Alpha particle X-ray spectrometer uses X-ray emission/fluorescence spectroscopy to detect the elements on Lunar surface like Sodium, Mg, Ca, Ti, Fe and other trace elements like Strontium, Yttrium, and Zirconium.
Laser-induced Breakdown Spectrometer fires high powered Lasers pulses at various locations around the landing site to analyze the radiation from decaying plasma characteristics.
Laser Retroreflector Array to take the Earth-Moon measurement and understand Lunar interior using Laser ranging techniques.
The Rover is fully capable of undertaking in-house payload experiments. It is designed to communicate with the Lander only due to its limited resources onboard, but Lander and Orbiter shall have direct communication with ISRO’s Indian Deep Space Network. Hence, Rover reported information shall be transmitted in a relay mode via the Lander module.
Moon has been an enigmatic celestial body for centuries and the effect of the Lunar cycle on Earth and its organisms’ circadian rhythm has been a well-known fact. Hence, to understand Life on Earth, further Moon study is critical since the effect of bonding of the two heavenly bodies is yet to be understood. Presently, the main focus of the Chandrayaan 2 scientific payload shall be to study the Moon for following:-
Water Molecules: Lunar South Pole is on the darker side of the moon and Chandrayaan 1 discovered water molecules in the icy form there. This possibility of the presence of tons of icy water over and under the surface has made this region of primary research interest for the world scientific community. Chandrayaan 2 aims at finding more details on the distribution of this icy water and study its composition up close using the Lander and its Rover unit.
Lunar Craters and Meteorites: The impact craters on the Moon make for an intriguing geological study as their formation is attributable to extra-terrestrial bodies hitting the surface and being assimilated as Moon edifice. As the Moon has a sparse atmosphere to obstruct any impact, asteroids/meteoroids and comets of all sizes and shape hit the moon surface regularly. The Lunar surface preserves these incoming celestial items, unlike on Earth, where such bodies undergo atmospheric entry annihilation. Meteorites discovered on the moon could be from celestial zone far beyond our solar system, and likely to be in the form of well-preserved rock samples, etc. and their analysis shall provide unique scientific data.
Moon’s Origin: The main theory of Moon's origin visualizes the impact of a large body with Earth several billion years ago, and the resulting sheared debris created by this impact finally accumulated to form the Earth’s natural satellite. Though, an understanding of the origin of the moon has been evolved by scientists this model requires further verification. Moon surface is a serene undisturbed ancient yet to be discovered environment. Experiments on the moon might throw up definitive clues on Universe and Earth’s own history like a fossilized fingerprint of Solar system.
Lunar Dust: Lunar dust needs a critical study since it could be the building material of the future Lunar stations. Lunar dust samples are required to be studied up close to understand its character. The future scientific Lunar stations constructed using Lunar dust may have radio telescopes (located on farther side from Earth face to reduce the influence of Earth’s magnetic signatures) and various other special experiment setups for Lunar study.
The upcoming Moon Landing as part of Chandrayaan 2 is a historical event for India and the discoveries made on the Moon shall launch new research and Ph.D. thesis for the scientific community. These studies shall form the backbone of further Lunar missions/experiments, thereby keeping India in the forefront of exclusive space research.
(The author is an Artificial Intelligence and C4I expert. Views expressed are personal)