Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Chandrayaan-2 Lunar Mission Deferred Again, Scheduled for May

Satellite programs of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have been going on in full swing but its Rs 800-crore Chandrayaan-2 mission has been postponed yet again. The highly-ambitious second lunar mission, which has till now been deferred four times, is now scheduled for launch in May.

The launch of India's second lunar mission was initially planned in April last year but later ISRO deferred the liftoff till October 2018. But the launch could not happen in October also due to some reasons. ISRO chairman last year told TOI that the space agency would hope to launch the lunar mission by January 3, 2019.

However, Chandrayaan-2 missed the lunar date again in January and was deferred till April. India also almost lost the race to Israel to become the fourth country in the world after Russia, US and China to land the spacecraft on the moon. Israel’s Beresheet lunar spacecraft, which was launched by Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket, is scheduled to land on the moon on April 11. If Israel’s lunar lander fails to land on the lunar surface, India would still be in the race.

On Monday after the successful launch of DRDO payload EMISAT and 28 foreign satellites, the ISRO chief announced, “In May, we are going to launch, PSLV-C46 followed by PSLV-C47 and Chandrayaan 2.”

Unlike the Chandrayaan-1 program in 2008 that involved only orbiting around the moon, Chandrayaan-2 is a much complicated mission. It involves a soft-landing on the lunar surface and a rover that will move on the moon’s surface for 100 meter and analyze the soil content. ISRO is, therefore, not taking any risk and taking time to fix all possible glitches as it wants a perfect landing.

Another reason for the postponement is that space agency wants to make use of the full lunar day (equal to 14 earth days). In January, the ISRO chairman told TOI, “We want to land the rover at a time when it can use the full lunar day and do all scientific experiments. For that to happen, there is a launch window. If we miss the window, we have to defer the launch.”

The mission is also challenging as ISRO is planning the landing in the south pole of the moon, which has not been explored by other countries. This is the same place where NASA’s payload M3 on Chandrayaan-1 discovered ice in the shadow of craters.

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