In the wake of the successful soft landing of ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 mission’s Vikram Lander on the lunar surface, attention now shifts towards the mission’s objectives and the significant implications it holds. The chosen lunar region reflects ISRO’s intention to pave the way for future lunar exploration, potentially leading to the establishment of settlements at the moon’s poles. The upcoming tasks of the Pragyan Rover and its associated instruments are diverse, encompassing the study of the lunar atmosphere, identification of water reservoirs, mineralogical composition, and geological formations. Over the course of 14 Earth days, the lander and rover are expected to conduct crucial scientific experiments, providing unprecedented data from the vicinity of the lunar south pole.
Pragyan Rover Mission:
The core mission of the Pragyan Rover revolves around an exhaustive investigation of the lunar atmosphere and the detection of water and minerals across the lunar surface. By meticulously scrutinizing these elements, the rover aims to offer invaluable insights that could unravel both the moon’s historical evolution and its potential for the future. This repository of information holds immense promise not only for scientific understanding but also for the prospects of upcoming space expeditions, potentially including lunar habitation ventures.
Key Upgrades in the Chandrayaan-3 Mission:
Months prior to the launch, ISRO Chief S Somanath shared that the Chandrayaan-3 mission underwent “failure-based” upgrades. Lessons drawn from Chandrayaan-2’s landing mishap were incorporated to enhance the Vikram lander and other aspects of the new mission. Some of these upgrades include:
- Strengthened Landing Legs: The new Vikram lander’s legs have been reinforced to ensure safe landing at speeds up to 10.8 kilometers per hour. This improvement is aimed at avoiding a situation like Chandrayaan-2, where the lander crashed at a speed of around 580 kilometers per hour.
- Larger Fuel Tank: Chandrayaan-3 carries more fuel than its predecessor, enabling last-minute adjustments if required.
- Increased Solar Panels: The new Vikram lander boasts solar panels on all four sides, a step up from its predecessor’s two-sided configuration.
- Additional Instruments and Enhanced Software: Chandrayaan-3 is equipped with extra instruments and improved software to aid in achieving a soft landing. Notably, the Laser Doppler Velocimeter will calculate the Lander’s speed using laser beams. The upgraded software features multiple redundancies for handling various scenarios.
Deciphering Geological Structures:
The trio of payloads on the Chandrayaan-3 Lander is tasked with probing the moon’s geological makeup. Specifically, these instruments are designed to identify and analyze the composition of the lunar crust and mantle. This comprehensive survey promises critical revelations about the moon’s origin and evolution, shedding light on its geological history.
Collecting Data about Lunar Crust and Temperature:
Through collaborative efforts, the lander and rover are poised to gather comprehensive data on the moon’s crust density and temperature. This information not only enhances our understanding of the moon’s internal structure but also provides insights into the dynamic processes that have shaped its surface over millennia.
Studying Seismic Activity:
An intriguing aspect of the Chandrayaan-3 mission is its potential to study seismic events on the moon. By investigating moonquakes, scientists aim to gain a deeper understanding of lunar seismic behavior and its implications for lunar geology. This research also holds significance in comprehending planetary mechanisms that govern celestial bodies.
Instrument Payloads on the Lander:
- RAMBHA (Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere): Studies surface plasma on the moon.
- ChaSTE (Chandra’s Surface Thermo Physical Experiment): Investigates thermal properties of the lunar surface near the polar region.
- ILSA (Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity): Measures lunar quakes, and studies lunar crust and mantle composition.
- LRA (LASER Retroreflector Array): A passive experiment from NASA for precise measurements in future missions using lasers.
Scientific Experiments on the Rover:
- LIBS (LASER-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope): Determines chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface.
- APXS (Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer): Identifies chemical and mineralogical composition of the lunar surface.
As the Pragyan Rover embarks on its exploration of the lunar landscape, it carries with it the potential to unlock profound mysteries and open unprecedented avenues of discovery. The data it collects, combined with insights from the Chandrayaan-3 Lander’s instruments, has the potential to transform our understanding of the moon’s composition, history, and untapped possibilities for future exploration. This ISRO mission stands as a testament to human ingenuity and determination, pushing the boundaries of space exploration and guiding humanity’s ongoing journey into the cosmos.