The lander-Vikram will finally land near the south pole on 6th September, 2019, and will carry out scientific experiments.
We are chasing the Moon since our understanding of the nature. But these efforts became aggressive since last ~50 years with our technological evolution. There has been multiple missions, which were focused on moon trajectory, understanding moon surface and many other initiatives. For all space agencies, moon is the first footstep to understand deep space explorations. The moon is the nearest celestial neighbour of the earth. Thus, it has always been the first priority as a test-bed to validate systems for farther objects to study.
Moon was always considered to be surrounded by vacuum till the discovery of water molecules in lunar soil. This discovery was made by the Chandrayaan X-ray Observatory. At sea level on Earth, each cubic centimetre of the atmosphere contains ~10^19 molecules. Whereas, the lunar atmosphere contains ~10^6 molecules in the same volume, which is considered as vacuum on the earth.
Moon’s atmosphere consists of sodium, potassium. These compounds are not found in the atmosphere of the Earth, Mars or Venus. It also contains a small amount of helium, argon, and possibly neon, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide. These elements were detected by an instrument called the Lunar Atmospheric Composition Experiment (LACE). This instrument was deployed on the moon’s surface by Apollo 17, the lunar mission by USA The atmosphere of the moon is so thin that molecules and atoms move freely with rare possibility of collision. The technical term for such atmosphere is ‘surface boundary exosphere’.
Moon has control over the oceanic phenomena on the earth. Recently, study revealed that moon is shrinking as it’s getting colder. Moon is active in quakes due to deep and shallow internal phenomena, thermal disturbances, impact of meteorites etc. There might be effects on earth’s atmosphere due to moonquakes. However, we still know very little about the moon!
Chandrayaan-2 is the mission of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It aims to target and explore further detailed all few known facts mentioned above. India will be the fourth nation to land on the moon while being the first one to land near the lunar south polar. Lunar south pole’s larger section remains in the dark. This increases its possibility of presence of water, and having cold traps containing a fossilised record of the early solar system. This makes the lunar south polar region interesting to land and understand unknowns about the moon.
Chandrayaan-2 will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota on-board GSLV Mk-III on 15th July, 2019. It will orbit around the moon 100 km above the surface Its primary work is to image the landing site region prior it’s landing, and to make sure it’s safe and hazard-free zones. The lander-Vikram will finally land near the south pole on 6th September, 2019. It will carry out scientific experiments; to address some of the major scientific questions concerning the Moon by studying its topography, polar volatile deposits, mineralogy, elemental abundance, and exosphere. These experiments will be carried out for 1 Lunar day = 14 Earth days. Orbiter will be operational for a period of one year.
ISRO has been one of the prestigious organisations in the world. It has very passionate and intelligent team. This enables ISRO in putting indigenous and successful footsteps into the space. Let’s hope for the best for this upcoming mission and further advanced answers to our curious questions. ISRO will present us in the near future!
Edited By: Dr. Ratnesh Jain