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Chandrayaan-3 Exploring the Dark Side of the Moon

On 23rd August 2023 as the dusk fell on earth, ISRO successfully soft landed the Chandrayaan-3 lander, the six wheel.....

: Written by “Ameya Gupta”.

On 23rd August 2023 as the dusk fell on earth, ISRO successfully soft landed the Chandrayaan-3 lander, the six wheel, 26-kg rover on the moon!

India became the first ever country to land near moon’s South Pole and 4th country to achieve soft landing on the moon. The six payloads on board the Vikram (lander) and Pragyan (rover) will build on the knowledge of earlier missions and collect new data in a single lunar day or 14 Earth days.

The Chandrayaan-3 payloads will further the science learnings by studying lunar quakes, mineral compositions, and the electrons and ions on near the surface of the moon. The mission will attempt to study water-ice, the presence of which was detected by Chandrayaan-1.

Mission Experiments:-

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 [or Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA)].

A passive Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) 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.

Mission’s Science Objectives:-

The mission objectives of Chandrayaan-3 are:

  1. To demonstrate Safe and Soft Landing on Lunar Surface
  2. To demonstrate Rover roving on the moon and
  3. To conduct in-situ scientific experiments.

The Chandrayaan-3 will carry out its own exploration on the unseen surface of the moon with respect of following experiments:

  • Discovery of water
    • Moon’s south pole has deep craters, remaining dark, likely containing water-ice, as per the southern polar region’s features.
    • Chandrayaan-1’s key revelation was water and hydroxyl (OH) molecules in the Moon’s exosphere and on its surface.
    • India intentionally directed the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) to the South Pole, aiding the examination of lunar atmospheric water and hydroxyl levels.
    • mini-SAR, an additional payload, identified subsurface water-ice deposits in dark craters near the Moon’s South Pole.
    • NASA’s MOON Mineralogy Mapper (M3), a third payload, also aided in identifying these molecules on the Moon’s surface.
    • Chandrayaan-2, designed for in-depth lunar water study, uniquely detected water and hydroxyl molecules, and mapped water features across the Moon.
  • Buried lava tubes
    • Chandrayaan-1’s terrain mapping camera and hyperspectral imager identified an underground lava tube, potentially offering a secure human habitat. It can protect against hazardous radiation, small meteoric impacts, extreme temperatures and dust storms on the surface of the moon.
  • Magma Ocean thesis
    • Many believe that the moon formed when an early piece of the Earth separated due to an impact. The impact is thought to have generated energy, causing the Moon’s surface to melt. Researchers refer to this phenomenon as the magma ocean hypothesis.
    • The M3 payload aboard Chandrayaan-1 detected a specific type of lighter density crystals on the lunar surface, indicating the presence of a past liquid state.
  • Solar flares
    • Chandrayaan-2’s Solar X-Ray Monitor identified solar micro flares beyond active zones and assessed element abundance in the faint solar corona.
    • These observations, which were so far only done for the larger solar flares, can give scientist clues to the mystery of coronal heating-why the Sun’s atmospheric layer (corona) is a million degrees hot even though the surface is just over 5700 degrees Celsius.
  • Mapping of Minerals
    • ISRO states that the CLASS X-ray Fluorescence experiment mapped 95% of the moon’s surface using past 50 years’ spectrometers. Both the Chandrayaan missions have mapped even regions form where samples return missions haven’t happened.
    • These studies have shown that oxygen is abundant as oxidise within the minerals on the Moon. This can be exploit as fuel for future missions, scientists believe.
  • A dynamic Moon
    • Chandrayaan-1 mission findings revealed the Moon’s active interior interacting with the exosphere, challenging dormancy assumptions.
    • Volcanic vents, lava ponds, and channels, identified by the terrain mapping camera, suggest volcanic activity within the past 100 million years.
    • Measurement of carbon dioxide by the MIP also pointed towards de-grassing from the surface. This shows an interaction of the lunar surface with the exosphere even in the absence of impacts by meteors.

On the last gripping 17-minutes of the touchdown, we all celebrated joyfully when a simple message popped up on the screen of ISRO’s HQ :

‘I reached my destination and you too!’ : Chandrayaan-3

And Chandrayaan-3 had already successfully soft-landed on the moon.

Reference – ISRO’s Official Chandrayaan-3 Mission Details

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