‘Real fruit will come after safe landing of Chandrayaan-3, rover will discover minerals on Moon’

K Rajeev, Director of Space Physics Laboratory, on Sunday said he was eagerly waiting for the scheduled soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the moon’s south pole. He is part of the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

Speaking to ANI, Rajeev said, “The remaining period is very, very crucial because now we will go for a power descent and then navigation and then again slow descent up to the surface. So that is a very crucial phase.” Chandrayaan-3 is set to land on the moon on August 23, 2023 (Wednesday), around 18:04 IST, the ISRO announced officially on Sunday.

Dr Rajeev obtained Ph.D. in Physics from the Space Physics Laboratory, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC)/University of Kerala. His areas of specialization are Atmospheric Science: Atmospheric Aerosols, Clouds, Radiation Transfer, Boundary Layer Physics, Atmospheric Dynamics, Climate Change, Satellite and Lidar Remote Sensing and Inversion Methods.

The genesis of the Space Physics Laboratory (SPL) is closely entwined with the evolution of space sciences and space research in India and dates back to more than four decades.

He said, “That’s the most crucial phase but the real fruit will come after the landing, after the safe landing which we are also eagerly waiting for.” He also delved into various technical aspects of the overall mission, its lander and rover.

“Rover’s payloads will help in knowing the kind of minerals present there (moon). For the first time, we are going to have the profiling of the lunar regolith. Chandrayaan-2 lander is still orbiting and we are getting data,” he said, stressing on the importance of the previous moon mission.

Asked what is the next move for India’s space mission, without getting into details, he said scientifically the missions and observations will continue.

“Science will continue, but what is the kind of mission that ISRO will be taking up has to be decided based on the priorities of the government as well as the capability, what we have and the scientific interest. So I will not be able to tell you exactly what will be the follow-up missions straight away. But obviously, you can expect that science never stops. So, that way there will be a continuity in terms of scientific studies and in terms of observations.” Director, ISRO Inertial Systems Unit Padmakumar ES also spoke to ANI.

He said, “It is very crucial to follow the exact trajectory for this descent because the margins of errors are quite low…That’s why this soft landing is considered to be a very difficult job to achieve…” Live actions will be available on the ISRO website, its YouTube channel, Facebook, and public broadcaster DD National TV from 17:27 IST on Aug 23, 2023.

Notably, the ‘Vikram’ lander module of the spacecraft successfully separated from the propulsion module on Thursday, and subsequently underwent crucial deboosting manoeuvres and descended to a slightly lower orbit.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission’s lander is named after Vikram Sarabhai (1919 -1971), who is widely regarded as the father of the Indian space programme.

A GSLV Mark 3 (LVM 3) heavy-lift launch vehicle was used for the launch of the spacecraft that was placed in the lunar orbit on August 5 and since then it has been through a series of orbital manoeuvres been lowered closer to the moon’s surface.

It has been a month and six days since the Indian Space Research Organisation launched the Chandrayaan-3 mission on July 14. The spacecraft was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota.

Chandrayaan-3 components include various electronic and mechanical subsystems intended to ensure a safe and soft landing such as navigation sensors, propulsion systems, guidance and control, among others.

The stated objectives of Chandrayaan-3, India’s third lunar mission, are safe and soft landing, rover roving on the moon’s surface, and in-situ scientific experiments.

The approved cost of Chandrayaan-3 is Rs 250 crores (excluding launch vehicle cost).

Chandrayaan-3’s development phase commenced in January 2020 with the launch planned sometime in 2021. However, the Covid-19 pandemic brought an unforeseen delay to the mission’s progress.

The key scientific outcomes from Chandrayaan-2 include the first-ever global map for lunar sodium, enhancing knowledge on crater size distribution, unambiguous detection of lunar surface water ice with IIRS instrument and more.

Moon serves as a repository of the Earth’s past and a successful lunar mission by India will help enhance life on Earth while also enabling it to explore the rest of the solar system and beyond.

Historically, spacecraft missions to the Moon have primarily targeted the equatorial region due to its favourable terrain and operating conditions. However, the lunar south pole presents a vastly different and more challenging terrain compared to the equatorial region.

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