India is once again shooting for the Moon, but this time its the dark side. And with the Chandrayaan-2 Mission, to be launched in mid-July, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is looking at putting a rover on the Moon by September 5.
The ISRO had launched Chandrayaan-1 ten years ago and the planned to go ahead with the Chandrayaan-2 Mission in 2012 with Roskosmos, the Russian space agency. But the Russians withdrew from the mission because their lander developed problems in 2011. Thus, the ISRO was left on its own to design, develop and build a lander.
Officials confirmed that July launch will be onboard ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III and will cost $144 million (about Rs 10 billion). ISRO’s lander will attempt a ‘soft’ controlled landing near the lunar South Pole on September 6 after a journey of more than 50-days.
The ISRO chairman K. Sivan said the last 15 minutes to the landing will be the most terrifying moments for them. “Once it touches down, the rover will carry out experiments while being controlled remotely by ISRO scientists.” Sivan said variations in lunar gravity, terrain and dust could cause problems. He revealed that this is the ‘most complex mission’ ISRO has ever undertaken. The Chandrayaan-2 is made up of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, which are all equipped with scientific instruments to study the Moon. Officials said the Orbiter would watch the Moon from a 100-km orbit, while the Lander and Rover modules will separate and make a soft-landing on the Moon’s surface. The Rover, a six-wheeled solar-powered vehicle will detach itself from the lander and slowly crawl on the Moon’s surface to make observations and collect data.
The Indian mission would be the third attempted lunar landing this year after China’s successful Chang’e-4 lunar probe and the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet, which failed and crashed onto the Moon in April.