2:43 pm,July 22, 2019. It’ll be a moment of glory for India as ISRO(Indian Space Research Organization) will launch its second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2; only becoming the fourth nation to soft-land on the lunar surface after United States, Soviet Union, and China, and also the first space organization to soft-land near the south polar region of the moon. History could have been made on 15th July 2019, but a technical snag made ISRO delay the mission and postpone it to 22nd July.
The first lunar mission of India was on 22nd October 2008 from Sriharikota using PSLV (Polar Satelite Launch Vehicle) which was a huge success.Chandrayaan-2 will also be launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh on-board GSLV(Geosynchronous Satelite Launch Vehicle) MARK-III. While the lander and rover are to be placed on the moon, the orbiter will continue to circle the moon.
OBJECTIVES OF THE MISSION:
The objectives of this mission include studies of lunar topography(Moon’s geography), mineralogy(the study of physical properties of minerals and crystal structures), elemental abundance, signatures of water ice, etc. It would also help us understand the origin and evolution of our lone satellite. The mission has also aimed to search for Helium-3 and its potential for mining.
BUT WHY THE SOUTH POLE?
Well, this is a really interesting question as to why ISRO plans to land near the lunar south pole where nobody has gone before, which region is full of craters(approximately circular depression formed on the surface of a planet or astronomical body after being hit by the hypervelocity impact of a comparably smaller body). So it won’t be that easy for the Vikram Lander, named in the honor of Vikram Sarabhai, founding father of space science research in India. Most other countries have landed near the equator of the moon due to the presence of flat surfaces in that region.
WATER ICE ON THE MOON?
Here the blue spots show the presence of water ice in the polar regions.
Well, the reason India is landing there despite all the difficulties is to search for water ice, whose presence was confirmed in the polar regions by our own, Chandrayaan-1. The reason behind the presence of water ice on the polar regions is that the most part of those regions lie in the permanent shadows which are caused by the small tilt of the moon’s rotation axis, which means the rotation of the moon is such that the polar region doesn’t get sunlight at all, being totally stranded in the shadows, which consequently lead to really low temperatures. It’s so cold that the temperature doesn’t even rise beyond -250 degrees Fahrenheit, which is believed to be the reason behind the formation of water ice. So if we can go there, we can collect oxygen and hydrogen which can be really used for rocket fuel. With space travel being in trending news and discovery of more exoplanets, we can build our own spaceship stop there to fuel our spaceships with those hydrogen and oxygen, which can be a really good possibility in future space travel.
SEARCH FOR HELIUM-3:
Another highlight of the mission to search for Helium-3 and its potential for mining. The abundance of this helium isotope on the lunar surface is due to the moon’s overexposure to the solar winds radiated from the sun. As the moon doesn’t have a magnetosphere surrounding it like that of the earth, the lunar surface gets directly bombarded with helium-3 isotopes. Why is helium-3 so important? As it has the potential to provide us with waste-free nuclear energy for three to four centuries, which is also expected to be worth trillions of dollars. Now you can imagine what a big game-changer it can be! But the problem arises as to how we bring those isotopes to our planet. Data show we can only bring one-fourth of helium-3 of what is present there. Also, we have to build more fusion power plants to convert those isotopes into nuclear energy, which is obviously going to take some serious time.
Well if Chandrayaan-2 succeeds in all these endeavors, it would only add to the glory and grandeur of ISRO which will be a huge leader in future space explorations.
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Author: Som Abhisek