Chandrayan 2 is a second lunar expedition of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) that boldly aims to reach the Southern Polar region of the moon. The south pole remains in shadow and is much larger than the North Pole. And there is a possibility of the presence of water and other minerals in those shadowed crates.
Chandrayan-2 comprises three modules: an orbiter, and a soft lander Vikram carrying a rover Pragyan which was successfully launched on July 22, 2019, at 2;43 pm IST. The mission is to soft-land on the lunar surface and for the first time to detect the location and mapping of lunar water and minerals in the southern region via Pragyan.
It was launched by India’s heavy-lift rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV MK III) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. India narrowly missed the chance to be the 4th country to soft-land on the lunar surface after Russia, America, and China.
The idea was to soft-land the lander Vikram and rover Pragyan in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N at a latitude of 70o south at approximately 1:50 am on 7 September 2019 and conduct Scientific experiments for one lunar day which equals to 14 earth days. However the exultation, the exuberance did not last long when early Saturday morning, i.e on the allotted date of 7th September, the lander lost contact while descending as supposed to until the moment when it was 2.1 kilometers from the lunar surface.
Chandrayan-2 moon mission is totally an indigenous mission using homegrown technology in that the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) first signed an agreement with ISRO to work together on the Chandrayan-2 project. The agreement was that the Roscosmos would provide the Lander and ISRO would have the responsibility of the orbiter and rover. But Russia later withdrew after their failure of the Fobos-Grunt mission to Mars. India then decided to develop the lunar mission independently.
This is the follow-on mission to the Chandrayan-1 which discovered traces of water in the moon and water ice in the North Polar region. It also detected minerals like magnesium, aluminum, and silicon. Chandrayan-1 was operational for 312 days till Aug 29, 2009. The lift of mass is 1380kg of Chandrayan-1 whereas it is 3,850 kg for Chandrayan-2. Two of the instruments are similar to those on Chandrayan -1 – The Terrain Mapping Camera-2 (TMC-2) and the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini SAR).
Chandrayan 2 will spend seven years in the lunar orbit continuing its mission. Through this mission, ISRO aims to- “expand India’s footprint in space, surpass International Aspirations, Inspire a future generation of scientists, explorers, and engineers”.
All is not lost as far as the 978 crores Chandrayan-2 mission is concerned, although the attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon certainly has. It seems the lander Vikram did not slow down and soft-land in the latter’s part of the descent and most likely hit the lunar surface at a great speed than required. The orbiter is fully functional and it will observe the lunar surface for at least a year.
The chairman of ISRO K Sivan recently told that the location of the lander have been found through the thermal image which was clicked by the orbiter of Chandrayan-2. He said that the space agency will try to establish a link with the lander for 14 days.