Eyeing the dark side
Ahead of India's second lunar mission after a decade, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) conducted a test-run of operations related to the Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission which is scheduled for launch on the morning of July 15. With India being the fourth country ever to reach the moon, Chandrayaan-2 happens to be the first space mission to conduct a soft-landing on the Moon's south polar region. Completely developed with indigenous technology, Chandrayaan-2 will place a lander and a robotic rover near the Moon's south pole with the aims to get a better understanding of the Moon's origin and its evolution. Conducting topographical studies and mineralogical analyses alongside a few other experiments on the Moon's Surface, the rover remains the most-decisive aspect of the mission–data provided by the rover will be of immense importance. The quick question teasing the mind has been the necessity for such a mission. Well, the southern polar region of the Moon that has been often discussed in relation to Chandrayaan-2's objective is one where no other country has ever gone. Owing to Moon's axis, few regions in the southern polar region remain permanently in darkness–reaching temperatures as low as -248ºC–and simultaneously raising chances of the presence of water which may never have been discovered. Thus, food for thought in place for ISRO and that explains the mission. Water is only the beginning of possibilities with fossil records frozen in the southern pole holding secrets of the early solar system. Studying the dark side of the moon will also give India an edge over others in international space exploration missions with the procurement of any valuable data standing as a precious input for mankind. Though Chandrayaan-2 will launch on July 15, it will only reach the Moon by September 6. The orbiter carrying the lander and rover will have to complete five orbit-raising manoeuvres around the Earth before leaving the planet's atmosphere 16 days following the launch. Though the journey to the Moon will consume around five days, the orbiter will then have to run another set of manoeuvres–orbiting the moon for 27 days–before the lander is dispatched for a touchdown which will be the most anxious moment for ISRO as described by K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO. Carrying 13 different scientific instruments to study the Moon, the entire cost of the project fares around 978 crores which includes orbiter, rover, and launcher. Recently, the Union Budget allocated the highest-ever outlay of Rs 12,473.26 crore or $1.45 billion–15 per cent more than previous year's allocation of around Rs 11,200 crore. DoS has been yielding a steady rise in the budget allocation since the past years and that, of course, goes to the credit of India's Chandrayaan-1 mission that had helped NASA detect water on Moon. Data collected by India's Chandrayaan mission was utilised by NASA in detecting magmatic water locked under the surface of the Moon. NASA researchers had said that it was the first remote detection of this form of water that originates from deep within the Moon's interior. Clearly, the inspiration to explore the Moon further, to the extent of going into the dark side, comes from fruits of the first mission. To this end, India's decade-long wait (11 years to be precise) has produced Chandrayaan-2. Although it still has to make a touchdown to be scripted in history, for those who have tirelessly given their efforts in constructing it from scratch, especially using indigenous technology, are the ones to look up to. For these skilled personnel, reaching the stage of the launch is in itself an achievement, which, of course, they would love to convert. The massive outlay by the government also seeks to incorporate National Space India Limited which will allow India to enter into space business as the commercial arm of DoS. But it is to the credit of missions like Chandrayaan which have given the government the faith it needs to channelise financial strength to its indigenous efforts owing to its ever-believing ideology of being self-reliant. With ambitious missions such as Gangayaan–to send Astronaut into space for a period of seven days in 2022–in the fray, Chandrayaan-2's success is perhaps the most essential observation to look forward to.