Yesterday—on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 that carried the first humans to the moon—India launched Chandrayaan-2, a spacecraft expected to land on the moon in September 2019.n
This comes only a day after NASA’s Orion crew capsule for moon missions was announced as completed; and while its Artemis lunar missions are currently under testing, with the first spacecraft expected to touchdown on the moon only in 2022.
There are four highlights of Chandrayaan-2 mission by ISRO, NASA’s Indian equivalent:
It will study the minerals on the moon’s south pole, which have not been closely studied yet.
It is managing the mission with a budget of just $141 million—far lower than other countries.
If successful then India will become the first country to achieve a soft, controlled landing close to the Moon’s south pole.
India will become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon—after the United States, China and Russia.
“Chandrayaan-2 is unique because it will explore and perform studies on the south pole region of lunar terrain, which has not been explored and sampled by any past mission. This mission will offer new knowledge about the Moon,”Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
The initial launch of Chandrayaan-2 was scheduled for 15 July. However, in a dramatic fashion, the launch was postponed by the ISRO less than an hour ahead of the deadline, citing a “technical glitch.” Naturally, they would of course rather have everything confirmed than take a chance due to schedule.
The issue was resolved within the week and the launch yesterday was televised live for the millions of Indians to watch.
As the name suggests, this is India’s second lunar mission. Chandrayaan-1 was an orbiter spacecraft that took flight in 2008. It played a crucial role for the current mission by confirming the presence of water ice within the moon’s craters.
India has also launched an orbiter to Mars in 2013 in a $74 million interplanetary mission—a small fraction of NASA’s mission to Mars in the same year, which costed $671 million.
In June 2019, it announced its plans to have its own space centre and conduct missions to study the Sun and the planet Venus. All these suggests that India’s plans for space are quite exciting and ambitious. Considering it can manage missions on tight low budgets, it could give the likes of NASA some serious competition.
“While navigation, communication and Earth observation are going to be the bread and butter for us, it is missions such as Chandrayaan, Mangalyaan (Sanskrit for “Mars vehicle”) and Gaganyaan that excite the youth, unite the nation and also pave a technological seed for the future,”Dr. Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
These plans and the Chandrayaan-2 mission could strengthen India’s position in the global space race considering it is managing the missions on tight and low budgets. Perhaps we will see space launches be outsourced too in the coming years when they become all too common—especially with the UAE and SpaceX’s plans to populate Mars. What do you think?