Why is nobody talking about Indian Chandrayaan-2 Project? There’s a space race going on in Asia between Chima, India and Israel. China’s Chang’e-4 has been on the moon’s surface since January and Israel’s Beresheet is preparing to land. India’s Ant-Satellite week has dominated the global news channels, but it’s a mere precursor to its plans to land on the moon itself in the next few months with Chandrayaan-2. EurAsian Times looks at a report from Forbes
What is ‘Mission Shakti’?
The Chandrayaan-2 mission comes in the wake of Mission Shakti, India’s test-firing of a rocket that shot down one of its own weather satellites while it orbited Earth at 17,000 miles per hour. That’s something only achieved before by the U.S., China, and Russia. However, this controversial landmark moment for India is going to be quickly surpassed when Chandrayaan-2 lifts-off during April.
What is the political significance of Chandrayaan-2?
What happens in April when Chandrayaan-2 leaves for the moon will shock some in the West. “To have both India and China together on the moon, one on the far side and one on the near side, sends a very important message to the world that a new space game is going to be fought in Asia,” says Pallava Bagla, Science Editor at New Delhi Television. “Asia is where you will see more missions coming (and) I am very excited about seeing the Indian mission on the near side, and the Chinese mission on the far side, both giving us data that will enhance our understanding of the lunar geology and lunar evolutionary history.”
What is Chandrayaan-2?
A lunar orbiter, lunar lander and lunar rover mission, Chandrayaan-2 will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh on a GSLV Mark III rocket sometime in April (though there have been significant delays so don’t rely on it happening during April). Chandrayaan-2 was initially supposed to be a joint mission with Russia but plans changed and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had to construct its own lander. Once that lander and a six-wheeled rover (which is called Vikram) are on the surface, the mission will have just one lunar day (14 Earth days) to do its work. Since all the equipment is solar-powered, that makes it likely that Chandrayaan-2 will land on or near the date of a full moon, possibly May 18 or June 17, 2019.
Why is Chandrayaan-2 so exciting?
Chandrayaan-2 is aiming to land in an area of the moon’s near side that is thought to contain water ice, which India’s previous moon orbiter Chandrayaan-1 helped detect for the first time in 2008. “This will be the first time any country is attempting to land on the near side of the moon on the south pole,” says Bagla. “To date, all landings on the near side of the moon have been in the equatorial region, including all the Apollo missions.”
What did Chandrayaan-1 do?
Chandrayaan-1 orbited the moon for nine months when few had any interest in the moon, but carried an instrument from NASA that provided the first evidence of water molecules on the surface of the moon. Chandrayaan-1 also paved the way for India to undertake planetary missions; in 2014, its Mars Orbiter Mission called Mangalyaan (“Mars-craft”) successfully reached Mars for less than Rs 450 Crore (US$73 million). It’s still there are still sending back images.
“Having done an orbiter, the next stage is to put a lander on the moon, and preferably a Rover,” says Bagla. That’s exactly what ISRO plans to do with Chandrayaan-2. “It was an obvious next choice, but it’s tricky because it’s being done with indigenous resources – and it’s the most complex mission ISRO has ever done.
How much does Chandrayaan-2 cost?
ISRO is known for its frugal space missions, and Chandrayaan-2 looks cheap in comparison to global missions, but that misses the point. “At Rs 800 crore (US$115 million) it’s a lot of taxpayer’s money,” says Bagla. “So ISRO is treading carefully.”
Is Chandrayaan-2 risky?
Yes, but all missions to land on a celestial body come with inherent risks. The most dangerous parts are the separation of the lander from the orbiter, and the lunar landing, which is a freefall for the last few meters. “You have to hit the bullseye in one go once you decide to land,” says Bagla.”If you’re not able to fire your retro rockets and land with the minimum of energy, you have a failure, and there have been many. The risk is very high but they have done a lot of iterations and simulations and they’re riding on the confidence that they were able to hit the bullseye at Mars.”
After Chandrayaan-2, ISRO has a target of August 15, 2022 (the 75th anniversary of India’s independence) to put three Indian astronauts into orbit for the first time. It’s also planning missions to send probes to both Venus and Mars.