India reaches for the Moon, again

M. Ramesh | | Updated on: Jul 14, 2019
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ISRO has embarked on an ambitious mission to land on the dark side of the Moon.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s GSLV Mk-III rocket, standing a metre taller than the India Gate and nicknamed Baahubali, carries three main payloads: An orbiter that will circle the moon for a year, a lander (called Vikram) that will soft-land, on to the moon’s surface, and the robot rover (Pragyan) that will crawl out of the lander to carry out scientific experiments upon the soil and rocks.

Between them, the orbiter, lander and rover carry 13 instruments that will be used for scientific investigations.

The lander will detach itself from the orbiter and circle the moon for four days in a path that is 30 km closest and 100 km farthest to the moon. Then, after ascertaining all its on-board instruments are fine, it will begin a powered descent to the Moon on September 6, using rockets to slow its fall.

The rover, which can move only half a kilometre, will be active for 14 Earth days before falling silent forever.

Cheapest mission

The ₹603-crore mission will be the first to soft-land 71 degrees south of the lunar equator, some 600 km from the Moon’s south pole.

It is also the cheapest Moon soft-landing mission. The world has so far mad 38 soft-landing attempts on the moon, with 52 per cent success rate.

Chandrayaan-2 was approved in 2007, a year before Chandrayaan-1 shot off. The first mission detected the presence of water-ice on the Moon — important for sustaining human outposts in future.

Chandrayaan-2 will produce more information about the ice. Given this importance, the entire world is keenly watching the mission’s progress.

Published on July 14, 2019

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