The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that it will launch India’s second mission to the moon, likely between July 9 and 16. The mission, called Chandrayaan 2, will carry three modules—an orbiter, a lander, and a rover that are expected to land on the moon on September 6.
ISRO says that after the GSLV MK-III launches the three modules, they will separate from each other once they reach the 100-kilometer lunar orbit. The lander is called Vikram and the rover is called Pragyan.
“After reaching the 100 km lunar orbit, the lander housing the rover will separate from the orbiter. After a controlled descent, the lander will soft land on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy a rover”, said ISRO, in an official statement.
This second moon mission will carry a six-wheeled rover that will be controlled by commands coming from ISRO in India. This rover will also conduct scientific experiments on the Moon’s surface and send back information that will be used to analyse lunar soil. ISRO chairman K Sivan told the Times of India that the rover will spend 14 earth days on the moon bringing back 13 payloads of information.
Chandrayaan-2 weighs around 3,290 kilograms and will orbit the moon. It will report back to ISRO on the moon’s topography and exosphere. It will also observe what kind of minerals and elements are present on the Moon, looking for signs of hydroxyl and water-ice, in particular.
What is ISRO?
The Indian Space Research Organisation, more commonly called ISRO, is the country’s premier space research and technology agency. It was formed in 1969 to develop “space based services”, and to bring “space to the service of the common man, to the service of the Nation.”
ISRO has conducted 101 spacecraft missions, 72 launch missions, and two re-entry missions. It has also successfully launched 269 international satellites from 32 different countries.
Today, ISRO is among the six largest space agencies in the world with the largest fleet of communication satellites and remote-sensing satellites that observe Earth.
Even beyond its own scientific developments, the agency has furthered education in science by instituting various research centres dedicated to atmospheric sciences, space sciences, astronomy, and astrophysics, under its Department of Space.
India’s successful missions
India’s first moon mission was called Chandrayaan-1, and launched on October 22, 2008. Chandrayaan-1 had also high-resolution remote sensors and near-infrared, low energy X-rays, and high-energy X-ray facilities that could study the Moon’s surface.
The main objective of the mission was to create a 3D atlas of the near and far side of the moon to map mineral and elemental distribution on the Moon’s surface. ISRO also wanted to test its technological capabilities and develop the scientific infrastructure necessary for such missions in the future.
“The mission goal of harnessing the science payloads, lunar craft, and the launch vehicle with suitable ground support systems, including Deep Space Network (DSN) station were realised”, said ISRO.
“Mission goals like spacecraft integration and testing, launching and achieving lunar polar orbit of about 100 km, in-orbit operation of experiments, communication/ telecommand, telemetry data reception, quick look data and archival for scientific utilisation by scientists were also met.”
Even Mangalyaan, India’s first mission to Mars, was widely appreciated. India was the only country to succeed, on its first attempt, at sending a spacecraft to Mars with limited funding. In fact, Mangalyaan was so cost-effective that it was cheaper than The Martian, a Hollywood film on a Mars mission.
In 2019, ISRO announced that it is attempting to build the first rocket with two reusable stages. The first stage will be based on SpaceX’s method of building reusable rockets. Sivan told TOI that ISRO is developing a winged body for the second stage, an idea that has never before been tested by any other space agency.
ISRO also launched 30 foreign satellites in one of the longest missions it has ever conducted. After the mission was successful, India was placed among its international peers in science and technology as a force to be reckoned with. The country’s space agency has also gained a reputation for being one of the most cost-efficient when it comes to space research.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius