Chandrayaan 2 For Dummies: India’s Second Moon Mission Simplified

India’s second unmanned mission to the moon may be a slow one, but it’s an efficient one. We explain.

Published02 Sep 2019, 02:23 PM IST
Tech and Auto
2 min read

Chandrayaan 2, India’s second unmanned mission to the moon, will finally reach its destination on 7 September, having taken off from Sriharikota in India, 48 days earlier. There’s a lot riding on this second Chandrayaan mission, as India will attempt to soft-land a lander (named Vikram) on the south pole of the moon. On 2 September, it entered its final stage, with the lander separating from the orbitor and descending to the surface of the moon.

The lander contains a six-wheeled rover named Pragyan that will emerge and conduct experiments for one lunar day, which is 14 days on Earth. We look at a few basics around India’s second unmanned mission to the moon.

Chandrayaan 2: Some FAQs

Why is it taking 48 days to reach the moon?
India likes to keep costs in check. The Chandrayaan 2 mission will cost only a shade under Rs 980 crore compared to Apollo 11’s mission that took only four days to the moon in 1969, which cost Rs 1,82,000 crore, just to put it in perspective.

It’s like riding a Hero Splendor bike, that’s extremely fuel efficient, to the moon, compared to a Suzuki Hayabusa that can get there fast, but is far more expensive.

To ensure Chandrayaan 2 burns as little as possible, India got it to orbit the Earth a few times, firing its engines intermittently to raise its orbit, before it could finally leave Earth’s orbit in a kind of slingshot manoeuvre.

What are the main components of Chandrayaan 2?
The Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft that launched aboard a GSLV MIII rocket has three main components. The first is the orbitor, which weighs 2,379 Kg and is the size of a large car. It will hover about a 100 km above the moon and will continue to orbit the moon for about a year, or perhaps even two years.

The second is the lander, named Vikram, after Dr Vikram Sarabhai who pioneered India’s space program. It weighs 1,471 Kg and was attached to the orbitor. It has now separated and is descending to the moon’s south pole.

The lander contains a rover inside it called Pragyan. This six-wheeled, solar-powered rover weighs just 27 Kg. Its objective is to travel around the moon’s surface and look for clues to Earth’s early origins. Specifically, it will also look for evidence of water below the moon’s surface as the south pole is in the dark region of the moon.

What happens next?
Chandrayaan 2 sets the stage for Chandrayaan 3, which will be a collaboration between India and Japan set for 2024. The experiments conducted by the first Chandrayaan expedition pointed to likely presence of water on the moon. Hence Chandrayaan 2 is attempting a soft landing on the surface to be able to conduct experiments further on this.

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