The history of moon missions dates back to the mid-20th century when the Space Age began. Here’s a brief overview of the major milestones in moon missions and India’s contribution to lunar exploration:
Luna Program (1959-1976): The Soviet Union’s Luna program was the first to successfully send spacecraft to the Moon. Luna 2 became the first human-made object to reach the Moon’s surface in 1959, followed by Luna 9, which transmitted the first images from the lunar surface in 1966. The program also achieved the first robotic sample return with Luna 16 in 1970.
Apollo Program (1961-1972): The United States’ Apollo program is widely known for landing the first humans on the Moon. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11’s astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the lunar surface. Subsequent Apollo missions continued until 1972, with a total of six successful manned landings.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO): Launched by NASA in 2009, the LRO is a robotic spacecraft designed to map the Moon’s surface and gather data to aid future human missions. It has provided detailed images, topographic maps, and other valuable information about the Moon’s geology and potential landing sites.
From the time of India’s Independent India is contributing to explore the knowledge of our Natural satellite Moon. On relevant of that India has launched various missions like:
- Chandrayaan-1 (2008)
- Chandrayaan-2 (2019)
- Gaganyaan (Chandrayaan-3)
Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first lunar exploration mission. It was launched on October 22, 2008, by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The primary objective of the mission was to obtain a detailed understanding of the topography, mineralogy, and the extent of water on the moon. Chandrayaan-1 carried 11 scientific instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, and a radar, to gather data about the moon’s surface and its composition.
The spacecraft orbited the moon for approximately ten months and conducted various experiments. One of its notable achievements was the discovery of water molecules on the lunar surface, particularly in the polar regions. The mission also provided valuable insights into the moon’s geology and confirmed the presence of minerals such as magnesium, aluminum, and iron.
Chandrayaan-1 played a crucial role in laying the foundation for future lunar missions, both for India and other countries. It demonstrated India’s capability in space exploration and scientific research. The success of Chandrayaan-1 boosted the confidence of ISRO and the Indian scientific community.
Building upon the success of Chandrayaan-1, India launched Chandrayaan-2 on July 22, 2019. Chandrayaan-2 was a more ambitious mission that aimed to further explore the moon’s south polar region and attempt a soft landing of a lunar rover, called Vikram, on the moon’s surface. The mission consisted of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover.
However, the landing attempt did not go as planned. During the final stages of descent, contact with the lander was lost, and it crash-landed on the moon’s surface. Despite the setback, the orbiter component of Chandrayaan-2 continues to orbit the moon and provide valuable scientific data.
Chandrayaan-2 demonstrated India’s capability to undertake complex missions and provided valuable insights into the moon’s surface and its composition. The mission also highlighted the challenges involved in landing on the moon and the need for continued efforts in space exploration.
Both Chandrayaan-1 and Chandrayaan-2 have significantly contributed to the scientific understanding of the moon and have paved the way for future lunar missions. The Indian Space Research Organisation remains committed to further exploring the moon and expanding India’s presence in space exploration.
Now Our Chandrayaan-3
Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-on mission to Chandrayaan-2 to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface. It consists of Lander and Rover configuration. It will be launched by LVM3 from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota. The propulsion module will carry the lander and rover configuration till 100 km lunar orbit. The propulsion module has Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload to study the spectral and Polari metric measurements of Earth from the lunar orbit.
Lander payloads: Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) to measure the thermal conductivity and temperature; Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) for measuring the seismicity around the landing site; Langmuir Probe (LP) to estimate the plasma density and its variations. A passive Laser Retroreflector Array from NASA is accommodated for lunar laser ranging studies.
Rover payloads: Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) for deriving the elemental composition in the vicinity of landing site.
Chandrayaan-3 consists of an indigenous Lander module (LM), Propulsion module (PM) and a Rover with an objective of developing and demonstrating new technologies required for Inter planetary missions. The Lander will have the capability to soft land at a specified lunar site and deploy the Rover which will carry out in-situ chemical analysis of the lunar surface during the course of its mobility. The Lander and the Rover have scientific payloads to carry out experiments on the lunar surface. The main function of PM is to carry the LM from launch vehicle injection till final lunar 100 km circular polar orbit and separate the LM from PM. Apart from this, the Propulsion Module also has one scientific payload as a value addition which will be operated post separation of Lander Module. The launcher identified for Chandrayaan-3 is GSLV-Mk3 which will place the integrated module in an Elliptic Parking Orbit (EPO) of size ~170 x 36500 km.
The mission objectives of Chandrayaan-3 are:
- To demonstrate Safe and Soft Landing on Lunar Surface
- To demonstrate Rover roving on the moon and
- To conduct in-situ scientific experiments.
To achieve the mission objectives, several advanced technologies are present in Lander such as,
- Altimeters: Laser & RF based Altimeters
- Velocimeters: Laser Doppler Velocimeter & Lander Horizontal Velocity Camera
- Inertial Measurement: Laser Gyro based Inertial referencing and Accelerometer package
- Propulsion System: 800N Throttleable Liquid Engines, 58N attitude thrusters & Throttleable Engine Control Electronics
- Navigation, Guidance & Control (NGC): Powered Descent Trajectory design and associate software elements
- Hazard Detection and Avoidance: Lander Hazard Detection & Avoidance Camera and Processing Algorithm
- Landing Leg Mechanism.
To demonstrate the above said advanced technologies in earth condition, several Lander special tests have been planned and carried out successfully viz.
- Integrated Cold Test – For the demonstration of Integrated Sensors & Navigation performance test using helicopter as test platform
- Integrated Hot test – For the demonstration of closed loop performance test with sensors, actuators and NGC using Tower crane as test platform
- Lander Leg mechanism performance test on a lunar simulant test bed simulating different touch down conditions.
The overall specifications for Chandrayaan-3 is provided below:
|1.||Mission Life (Lander & Rover)||One lunar day (~14 Earth days)|
|2.||Landing Site (Prime)||4 km x 2.4 km 69.367621 S, 32.348126 E|
|3.||Science Payloads||Lander:Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA)Chandra’s Surface Thermo physical Experiment (ChaSTE)Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA)Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) Rover:Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS)Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) Propulsion Module:Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE)|
|4.||Two Module Configuration||Propulsion Module (Carries Lander from launch injection to Lunar orbit)Lander Module (Rover is accommodated inside the Lander)|
|5.||Mass||Propulsion Module: 2148 kgLander Module: 1752 kg including Rover of 26 kgTotal: 3900 kg|
|6.||Power generation||Propulsion Module: 758 WLander Module: 738W, WS with BiasRover: 50W|
|7.||Communication||Propulsion Module: Communicates with IDSNLander Module: Communicates with IDSN and Rover. Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter is also planned for contingency link.Rover: Communicates only with Lander.|
|8.||Lander Sensors||Laser Inertial Referencing and Accelerometer Package (LIRAP)Ka-Band Altimeter (KaRA)Lander Position Detection Camera (LPDC)LHDAC (Lander Hazard Detection & Avoidance Camera)Laser Altimeter (LASA)Laser Doppler Velocimeter (LDV)Lander Horizontal Velocity Camera (LHVC)Micro Star sensorInclinometer & Touchdown sensors|
|9.||Lander Actuators||Reaction wheels – 4 nos (10 Nms & 0.1 Nm)|
|10.||Lander Propulsion System||Bi-Propellant Propulsion System (MMH + MON3), 4 nos. of 800 N Throttleable engines & 8 nos. of 58 N; Throttleable Engine Control Electronics|
|11.||Lander Mechanisms||Lander legRover Ramp (Primary & Secondary)RoverILSA, Rambha & Chaste PayloadsUmbilical connector Protection Mechanism,X- Band Antenna|
|12.||Lander Touchdown specifications||Vertical velocity: ≤ 2 m / secHorizontal velocity: ≤ 0.5 m / secSlope: ≤ 120|
The objectives of scientific payloads planned on Chandrayaan-3 Lander Module and Rover are provided below:
|Sl. No||Lander Payloads||Objectives|
|1.||Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA)||Langmuir probe (LP)||To measure the near surface plasma (ions and electrons) density and its changes with time|
|2.||Chandra’s Surface Thermo physical Experiment (ChaSTE)||To carry out the measurements of thermal properties of lunar surface near polar region.|
|3.||Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA)||To measure seismicity around the landing site and delineating the structure of the lunar crust and mantle.|
|4.||LASER Retroreflector Array (LRA)||It is a passive experiment to understand the dynamics of Moon system.|
|Sl. No||Rover Payloads||Objectives|
|1.||LASER Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS)||Qualitative and quantitative elemental analysis & To derive the chemical Composition and infer mineralogical composition to further our understanding of Lunar-surface.|
|2.||Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS)||To determine the elemental composition (Mg, Al, Si, K, Ca,Ti, Fe) of Lunar soil and rocks around the lunar landing site.|
|Sl. No||Propulsion Module Payload||Objectives|
|1.||Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE)||Future discoveries of smaller planets in reflected light would allow us to probe into variety of Exo-planets which would qualify for habitability (or for presence of life).|