India's Chandrayaan 2 takes the lead ahead of America, Russia, and China as the first of many missions to the Moon's South Pole
- The Moon's South Pole is becoming a popular destination for space exploration as India launches its second lunar mission,
- China, Russia and the US are hot on the trail to land their own missions on the Moon's South as well.
- Countries finally have the technological capability to land in a heavy crater area like the Moon's South Pole.
- The abundance of craters on the lunar South Pole makes it a treasure trove of primary elements trapped in the ice at temperature dipping below -230 degrees Celsius.
Chandrayaan 2 will be launching tomorrow at 2:15am from the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island.
The sudden demand for the South Pole isn't by chance. It's because countries finally have the technology to help them land in one of the most highly cratered regions on the moon.
"The world is targeting the South Pole. It's not just India — the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Europeans — they're all going to the South Pole," stated Chaitanya Giri, a fellow for space and ocean Studies at Gateway House, a think tank focussing on India's global relations.
China has its own plans to build a scientific research station on the Moon's South Pole and they're going to start off by sending the Chang'e-5 there to collect and return with lunar samples by the end of the year. The European Space Agency ( ESA) is reportedly in talks to collaborate.
Americans want their astronauts on the South Pole, even though it's not certain whether they will get there by 2024 or 2028.
Even Russia has the South Pole on their books with Luna-25 mission, also known as the Luna Glob Lander.
"If you look at missions in the past, we went to places where it was safe to land. The world didn't have the technology to land on slightly off places on the moon. Its takes a while to really practice going to the moon and how to land in certain far away places," Giri told Business Insider India.
Panning for resources
Since the moon is so crater heavy, the craters and their shadows have been experiencing low temperatures for millions of years going as low as -230 degrees Celsius.
"The Moon's South Pole has massive amounts of resources on it, which are not seen and not found in other regions of the moon. You have ices of water, ices of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, probably methane as well," said Giri.
And while, the existence of these minerals is speculated, nobody really knows the origins of these volatile compounds. "Are they of lunar origin or have they been delivered by impacting fragments of asteroids and comets? There is quite a curiosity about it," Giri explained.
"The ices and the molecules they are formed of, have been lying there for a very long time. All this time these ices have been irradiated by solar, galactic, and cosmic rays - leading to a lot of low-temperature quantum-tunneled chemistry within these ices," he added , concluding that, "Scientists are expecting some exotic stuff that will have far-reaching applications to the high-tech industry."
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