Chandrayaan 2: How Lander Vikram will touchdown on the lunar surfaceHARDWARE NETWORKING LINUX SOFTWAREIt Tech Technology

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Chandrayaan 2: How Lander Vikram will touchdown on the lunar surface

India is all set to expand its footprint in space with the follow-up lunar mission, Chandrayaan 2, which is set for launch on Monday, early in the morning. The toughest challenge it will face throughout the mission is when its home-built Lander 'Vikram' will attempt to touchdown on the moon's surface which is covered with craters, dust, and rocks. 

When Chandrayaan 1 launched in 2008, it was only equipped with an orbiter and an impactor. While the orbiter continued to revolve around the Moon for around a year, the impactor was simply dropped from Chandrayaan 1 onto the surface of the moon. 

Ajay Lele, a senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi, states, "That was a free fall, but this time, the landing has to be controlled. Huge velocity would be required when the Lander gets released from the Orbiter. Deboosting will be extremely challenging and then ensuring that Lander lands softly and rover comes out".

Lele also clarifies that the first and foremost challenge would occur when the spacecraft would attempt to enter the moon's orbit from the earth's orbit. This is a challenge since the moon's orbital location is constantly changing, therefore the intersection of the Chandrayaan 2 and the moon's path would have to be predicted extremely accurately. 

Basically, when the moon approaches the Apogee of Chandrayaan 2, which is the spacecraft's farthest point from the earth, the on-board thrusters would have to fire precisely and also reduce its velocity for lunar capture and subsequent entry into the lunar orbit.

ISRO has identified a site between two craters marked Manzinus C and Simpelius N for landing which is near the Moon's south pole. The Navigation, Guidance and Control (NGC) system onboard as well as the propulsion system of the module will have to work together for a successful landing. 

Another hurdle is that the firing of onboard engines that are close to the lunar surface can lead to the backward flow of hot gases and dust. This dust carries a negative charge, therefore it will stick to most surfaces and cause disturbances in the deployment mechanisms as well as the functioning of the solar panels and engines, thereby creating a hostile environment.

After all of this, once the lander softly settles on the moon, 'Pragyaan', a six-wheeled rover will roll out and explore the moon's surface for 14 earth days (1 lunar day). The AI-enabled rover will study the moon's surface and its mineral composition.

Lele mentioned, "Scientists would have to overcome the communication gap. Both the Rover and Lander will not be able to communicate with the earth, so the connection established with the orbiter would only allow them to relay signals to the earth (which is at a distance of nearly 3.8 lakh km from the moon)".

Additionally, at such massive distances, the radio signals which are utilised for communication are quite weak. There's heavy background noise as well. Therefore, it is absolutely critical to make sure that the landscape features do not cause communication shadow areas.


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