India’s moon mission a victory for science - GulfToday

India’s moon mission a victory for science

India Moon Mission

India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III-M1 blasts off carrying Chandrayaan-1 from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, India. Reuters

As India’s rocket soared on a historic attempt to put a landing craft on the surface of the moon, so did the joy of millions of Indians across the globe.

The thrill of the take-off drowned the dejection of the halting of the initial launch of Chandrayaan-2 (Moon Chariot 2) a week earlier.

This is India’s most ambitious mission yet in an effort to establish itself as a low-cost space power and become only the 4th nation to soft-land on the moon, thereby joining an elite space force.

The new mission comes almost 11 years after the launch of India’s first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — which orbited the moon and searched for water.

China, Russia and the United States are the only other nations to have sent missions to the moon.

If successful, $146-million mission will allow Indian scientists to carry out studies regarding the presence of water at the moon’s south pole, which has so far remained unexplored by any other nation.

Incidentally, the United States of America — which is marking the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong becoming the first human on the moon — spent the equivalent of more than $100 billion on its Apollo missions.

Nonetheless, the Chandrayaan-2 task has just begun and the path to success is laden with huge challenges.

A total number of 38 soft landing attempts have been made so far. The success rate is not really highly encouraging as it remains at 52 per cent.

It may be recalled that earlier this year, Israel’s first moon mission crash-landed while attempting to touch down.

“Today is a historic day for space, science and tech in India,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K. Sivan stated as he hailed the efforts made to fix a fuel leak that forced the earlier launch to be postponed.

But Sivan has also made it clear that the mission’s next stage would be critical to its success, with scientists set to conduct some 15 crucial manoeuvres of Chandrayaan-2 over the next month-and-a-half to position it around the moon.

In his own words: “After that, D-day will come — and that day we are going to experience 15 minutes of terror to ensure that the landing is safe.”

The 2.4-tonne orbiter is expected to circle the moon for about a year, taking images of the surface, looking for signs of water, and studying the atmosphere.

ISRO scientists will remotely control the rover named Pragyaan — “wisdom” in Sanskrit — as it carries out experiments. It will work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, studying rocks and soil on the moon’s surface.

The country’s space ambitions have been soaring. India’s 2019/20 budget for space research stood at Rs124.7 billion ($1.81 billion), rising by some 75% since 2014.

In March this year, India shot down one of its own satellites to demonstrate its anti-satellite weapon capabilities.

India also put a satellite into orbit around Mars in the nation’s first interplanetary mission in 2013 and 2014.

India has also announced plans for a manned space mission with a targeted flight in December 2021, besides proposing missions to study Venus and the sun.

Besides, India puts into orbit foreign satellites for a fee using its PSLV rocket. Revenue for launching satellites depends on the weight of the satellite — higher the weight, higher the revenue.

It is also good when nations collaborate on such useful missions. India plans to buy rocket engines from Russia for its national space programme, RIA news agency has cited Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov as saying during a visit to New Delhi on Monday.

Any development in science and technology will at the end of the day benefit entire humanity. India does deserve a pat for the tireless efforts to fulfill its space ambitions.