As India and the world await Chandrayaan-2's soft-landing on the moon, the significance of landmark space mission has been a point of discussion among the scientist community and social media alike.
If this mission is successful, India will become the fourth country after the US, Russia, and China to conduct a soft landing on the moon and the first country to land close to the lunar south pole on its first attempt.
Apart from the scientist community, students have also been asked in schools to write essays on Chadrayaan-2, Indian's lunar mission. So first, let's start by knowing what exactly is Chandrayaan?
Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first mission to the moon. The name Chandrayaan means 'Chandra- Moon, Yaan-vehicle,' in Indian languages (Sanskrit and Hindi), the lunar spacecraft.
Chandrayaan-1 was operational for 312 days till August 29, 2009.
Discoveries made by Chandrayaan-1
Chandrayaan-1 discovered traces of water on the moon and water ice in the north polar region of the moon. It also detected magnesium, aluminium and silicon on the lunar surface. Global imaging of the moon is another achievement of this mission.
What is Chandrayaan-2?
Chandrayaan-2 is an Indian lunar mission that will explore the moon's south polar region. The aim of the lunar mission is to improve our understanding of the moon discoveries that will benefit India and humanity as a whole.
Chandryaan-2 comprises of an orbiter, lander (Vikram) and rover (Pragyan).
Why is Chandrayaan-2 going to the moon?
The moon is the closest cosmic body at which space discovery can be attempted and documented.
Moon provides the best linkage to Earth’s early history. It offers an undisturbed historical record of the inner solar system environment.
Evidence for water molecules discovered by Chandrayaan-1 requires further studies on the extent of water molecule distribution on the surface, below the surface and in the tenuous lunar exosphere to address the origin of water on Moon.
Chandrayaan-2 attempts to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances, and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists.
But why is Chandrayaan-2 exploring only the lunar south pole?
The lunar south pole is interesting because of the lunar surface area which remains in shadow and is much larger than that at the north pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it.
In addition, the south pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early solar system.
Chandrayaan-2 will attempt 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 about 70° south.
Why is moon's south pole known as the far side of the moon?
The Moon’s south pole region is home to some of the most extreme environments in the solar system: it’s unimaginably cold, massively cratered, and has areas that are either constantly bathed in sunlight or in darkness.
The most enticing feature of this southernmost region is the craters, some of which never see the light of day reach their floors. The reason for this is the low angle of sunlight striking the surface at the poles.
To a person standing at the lunar south pole, the Sun would appear on the horizon, illuminating the surface sideways, and, thus, skimming primarily the rims of some craters while leaving their deep interiors in shadow.
One of the largest known craters in the solar system sits at its south pole, called the South Pole-Aitken Basin. That area is known to have water ice hidden away on permanently shadowed crater walls and in regions just below the surface.
Each side of the Moon is dark for 14 earth days each month
The far side of the Moon has been explored by the United States, Russia, and China
Which launch vehicle has been used to launch Chandrayaan-2?
Chandrayaan-2 was launched by GSLV MK-III M1 launch vehicle on July 22, 2019. (Image: ISRO)
Chandrayaan-2 was launched by Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III (GSLV MK-III) M1 launch vehicle on July 22, 2019, from Sriharikota. This three-stage vehicle is India's most powerful launcher to date and is capable of launching 4-ton class of satellites to the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Lander
The lander of Chandrayaan 2 is named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme. It is designed to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days.