Chandrayaan-2: A milestone in the history of space exploration

  01-Aug-2019 11:54:14


Chandrayaan-2 is the second unmanned lunar exploration mission of India, after almost a decade since the launch of Chandrayaan-1, developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The mission was launched from the second launch pad at Satish Bhawan Space Centre on 22 July 2019 at 2.43 PM IST. Chandrayaan-2 is India’s first space mission that will conduct a soft landing on the south pole of the moon.

This mission will make India the 4th country to make a soft landing over the moon after Russia, America and China. The main objective of the mission is to operate a robotic rover on the surface. It also aims towards finding minerals and indicators of hydroxyl and water molecules. The orbiter will map the lunar surface and help to prepare 3D maps of it.

The spacecraft has a mass of 3.8 tonnes and it comprises three modules: The Orbiter, Vikram Lander and Pragyan Rover. Chandrayaan will carry 13 payloads (8 on the orbiter, 3 on lander and 2 on rover). The orbiter has eight instruments fitted into it, out of which seven of them are India’s and NASA has one payload onboard called the Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) that will last for much longer than the Chandrayaan-2 mission. Two of the instruments are similar to the ones used in Chandrayaan-1 ie; The Terrain Mapping Camera-2 (TMC-2) and The Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini SAR).

As per the schedule, Vikram, the moon lander will soft-land on the moon and then Pragyaan will roll out to explore the moon surface. After leaving the orbit of Earth and on entering Moon's sphere, the on-board propulsion system of Chandrayaan-2 will be fired off to slow down the spacecraft. This will enable it to be captured into a preliminary orbit around the Moon.

Later, through a set of manoeuvres, the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 around the Moon will be circularised at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface. Subsequently, the lander will separate from the orbiter and enter into a 100 km X 30 km orbit around the Moon. After this, it will perform a series of complex braking manoeuvres to soft-land in the south polar region of the Moon on September 7, 2019.

Following this, the rover will roll out from the lander and carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of 1 lunar day, which is equal to 14 Earth days. The mission life of the lander is also 1 lunar day. The orbiter will continue its mission for a duration of one year.

Over 1000 scientists worked relentlessly over the past several years on the ambitious Chandrayaan-2, a mission that promises to once again stamp India as a dominant player in the field of space exploration. Chandrayaan-2 will be India's first interplanetary mission to be steered by two women, M Vanitha as Project Director and Ritu Karidhal as Mission Director.

By: Simran Gogia