The Indian Space Research Organization is ready to launch its Chandrayaan-2 mission on Sunday (July 14) to deploy a landing module and a landing vehicle where no one has dared before: the Moon's south pole.
It is a region that is generally rich in water ice and sunlight, which are essential components for future human missions on Mars. So you can think of the Indian spacecraft as an explorer for astronauts who can follow some year. as early as 2024, if the direction of Trump's administration to NASA goes according to plan.
This means that the science of Chandrayaan-2 of India will be useful to plan these future human missions. Besides that, learning more about the geological history of the moon will teach us about other rocky bodies in the solar system with a tenuous atmosphere, like Mercury. When studying a world, we can often draw conclusions about others.
Related: The probe of the long lost moon of India was found by the radar of NASA
Chandrayaan-2 will be based on the work of its predecessor orbital mission Chandrayaan-1, which is most famous for helping discover water molecules on the moon a decade ago. The mission costs relatively $ 140 million, according to the Times of India.
Coincidentally, Chandrayaan-2 will also be launched just days before the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon, Apollo 11, on July 20.
This is what the new orbiter, lander and rover will do.
Profile of the mission
Let's start with the rocket of the spacecraft, which is called Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III. This is a three-stage vehicle considered to be the most powerful pitcher in India. According to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the rocket will be launched and, finally, will place the spacecraft in what is called a parking orbit of the Earth. This is a stable circle around the globe that allows mission controllers to verify the orbiter of the spacecraft and the attached lander, and make sure everything is fine.
From there, Chandrayaan-2 will be placed on a lunar transfer path, its path to the moon.
The spacecraft will fire its engines once more in the vicinity of the moon to insert itself into the moon's orbit, then gradually rotate in circles until it achieves a circular orbit at an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the moon. Then it will be time for 5,200 pounds. (2,400 kilograms) orbiter and 3,200 pounds. (1,500 kg) lander to start your separate missions.
"On the day of landing, the lander will separate from the orbiter and then perform a series of complex maneuvers," ISRO said.
The landing module is called Vikram, after the founder of the Indian space program, Vikram Sarabhai, according to planetary society. After entering the correct path, Vikram will land between two craters called Manzinus C and Simpelius N, approximately 70 degrees south of the equator.
Vikram's next act will be to deploy a 60 lb. (27 kg) rover, called Pragyan ("wisdom" in Sanskrit). Pragyan is designed to travel up to 0.3 miles (0.5 kilometers) and last approximately one moon day, which is equivalent to 14 Earth days.
The rover will send its scientific data to Vikram, who can communicate to the orbital spacecraft, or directly to the Deep Space Network of India, the company added. Even after the rover ceases operations, the orbiter is expected to continue working for about a year.
Chandrayaan-2 will present the science made by Chandrayaan-1 a decade ago. ISRO said he wants more information about the history and evolution of the moon's origin by examining the topography of the moon, mineralogy and more.
"We will also explore the discoveries made by Chandrayaan-1, such as the presence of water molecules in the moon and the new types of rock with a unique chemical composition." ISRO officials said.
The following instrument descriptions are based on information from your website.
The orbiter is equipped with two cameras, a terrain mapping camera and a high resolution camera (OHRC), to provide detailed maps of the surface. OHRC will also help Vikram to arrive safely by looking for craters or rocks before the lander is separated.
The information on the composition of the moon will come through a pair of spectrometers: the large-area soft X-ray spectrometer (CLASS) and an infrared spectrometer. A synthetic aperture radar will search for ice water and also estimate the thickness of the soil (regolith). The orbiter also has instruments to observe solar X-rays and the dim atmosphere (or exosphere) of the moon.
The Vikram lander has three main instruments on board.
- The radio-anatomy instrument of the ionosphere and hypersensitive atmosphere linked to the moon (RAMBHA) will badyze the temperature density of electrons near the lunar surface. The instrument will also examine how plasma, or superheated gas, changes near the lunar surface under different solar conditions.
- The Chandra surface thermophysical experiment (CHASTE) looks in detail at the lunar surface. You will learn how the temperature varies according to the depth and how well the surface conducts the heat. It includes a thermal probe (sensors and a heater) that will be placed in the regolith up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) deep.
- The Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) will listen to the earthquakes of the moon. The seismometer is designed to "detect the tiny displacement of the ground, speed or acceleration caused by lunar earthquakes," according to ISRO.
The rover Pragyan, on the other hand, will have two own instruments.
- An alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) will learn about the elemental composition of the moon around the landing site. The instrument bombards the surface with X-rays (or alpha particles) and then examines the result. This will allow the instrument to identify known elements that form rocks in the moon, such as sodium, magnesium and aluminum. It can also collect trace elements such as strontium or zirconium.
- A laser-induced rupture spectroscope (LIBS) will also look for elements, but more for abundance. "It does this by firing high-power laser pulses at several places and badyzing the radiation emitted by the decomposing plasma," said ISRO.
The mission also includes a NASA's small laser retroreflector array "To understand the dynamics of the Earth's lunar system, and also to obtain clues about the lunar interior," said ISRO. Like some Apollo and Lunokhod missions that landed on the moon in decades past, this matrix will allow scientists to fire lasers from Earth to a reflector, which will send the signal back to Earth. Then they will obtain scientific data on the measurement of the dispersion (propagation) of the laser at the time of its return, as well as the time it takes for the laser to return.
Visit Space.com on Sunday, July 14, at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT / 0230 July 15 IST) for a live broadcast of India's Chandrayaan-2 mission. You can watch it live here on Space.com and directly from ISRO here.