Chandrayaan 2 will give India bragging rights even if it doesn’t find water

ISRO's graphic depiction of Chandrayaan 2 landing on the MoonISRO

  • India's second lunar mission, Chandrayaan 2, will give Indian bragging rights of being the first country to land on the Moon's South Pole even if it fails to detect water molecules.
  • The primary objective of Chandrayaan 2 is to build on Chandrayaan 1's discovery of water molecules on the moon.
  • India's mission to the moon will also be trying to find clues to the origins of the Solar System.
Notwithstanding the bragging rights that India will get from being the first country to land on the Moon’s South Pole, there’s a larger mission at play for India’s second trip to the Moon.

Chandrayaan 2 is set to take off next week in the wee hours of the morning — July 15 at 2:15am Indian Standard Time (IST). And, it's going to be long awaited stepping stone to build on the discovery of water by Chandrayaan 1. Very little is known about water on the Moon and mapping the lunar satellite's South Pole could be the key to solving that mystery.

Confirming the location of water on the Moon and its quantities has the potential to serve as a solution for sustaining human habitation on the moon for longer missions. It can also be a last resort measure to create rocket fuel for astraunauts to find their way back to Earth.

The mission will attempt a soft landing on a high plain between two of the Moon’s craters on the South Pole — Manzinus C and Simpelius N. It is expected to last a total of 15 days once ISRO successfully lands on the Moon.

India’s second lunar mission will be carrying 14 payloads abroad its 3 modules — the orbiter, the lander called Vikram and Pragyan, the rover. The orbiter will be doing most of the heavy lifting with eight of the 13 payloads resting on its shoulders, while the lander will be carrying three payloads and the Pragyan will carry two when they launch into space on July 15.

Together, the spacecraft will have a mass of 3.8 tonnes.

Early space

The Moon being Earth’s neighbor definitely makes it more convenient to pop by but the planet’s natural satellite is also the best link to the Earth’s early history — not to mention that it’s an ‘ undisturbed record’ of the Solar System’s environment as it evolved to become what it is today.

There are few theories about how the Moon came to be but the story still has a lot of large gaps.

The payloads abroad Chandrayaan 2 — like the Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (CLASS), Chandrayaan 2 Atmospheric Compositional Explorer 2 ( CHACE 2), Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer ( APXS) and the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy ( LIBS) — will help the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) determine the distribution, abundance and location of the major elements on the Moon.

Even when looking for water, one of the questions that ISRO will try and answer is how that water came to be on the moon in the first place.

Bucket full of water

Evidence of water molecules on the Moon was discovered by Chandrayaan 1 opening up new possibilities for future human spaceflight missions to the moon or even setting up a habitat where more experiments can be conducted to unveil the mysteries of the Moon.

The issue with taking water from Earth into space is that its very heavy — not to mention expensive. It’s one of the primary reasons that the International Space Station ( ISS) has in-built mechanism to recycle and ration the water onboard.

Finding water on the moon also gives future missions a future reservoir of hydrogen and oxygen to draw from to create rocket propellant.

Estimates by NASA suggest that there could be more than 300 million tonnes of water ice on the moon. It may not be in the same form that we find it here on Earth but it will still prove to be useful.

Uncharted territory

Exploring the origins of the Moon and the Solar System as well trying to find water on the Moon are ISRO’s primary objectives, which is why the Moon’s South Pole also has strategic advantage.

For one, it’s uncharted territory. Most of the lunar South Pole remains shrouded in darkness because the shadow over it is considerably larger than the one on the Moon’s North Pole.

For Chandrayaan 2, an area that’s protected from the Sun has significance because the craters in the region are cold traps, which contain water and ice from comets, meteorites and solar wind induced iron reduction. And since the area is so preserved, it also could unveil fossil records from the early Solar System.

The Chandrayaan 2 mission will carry three modules to the Moon — an orbiter, a lander and a rover. There are going to be a total of 14 payloads on board to collect data from the Moon, including NASA’s Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA).

See also:
India's second moon mission Chandrayaan-2 that will cost ₹10 billion will break new records

India’s second mission to the moon will use these 14 high-tech instruments to look for water

India’s second lunar mission pegged to launch in July
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