India Is Planning Risky Landing Near the Moon's South Pole

During the Summer, India will attempt to release a lander near the moon's south pole, a moon-landing that is far more difficult than those attempted in the past.

India Is Planning Risky Landing Near the Moon's South Pole
A model of Chandrayaan-2 rover Indian Space Research Organisation

Later on this year the India Space Research Organisation Satellite Centre plans to return to the moon. Including an orbiter, lander, and a small rover the Chandrayaan-2 mission, will be a very ambitious project with the aim to land on a table-flat plain 600 kilometers from the moon's south pole. After the landing, the lander will release a rover to roam this never explored area.

The Apollo 11 moon landing marked one of the most significant moments in space travel for humanity. The landing marked an important stepping stone for future exploration. Since the successful landing, technology has evolved tremendously creating an unprecedented wave of new aircrafts as well as destinations. Even more so, over the past couple of years, there has been strong interest and reemerging curiosity in lunar exploration. "There has been a rebirth of lunar exploration across the globe, and India can't be left behind," states Mylswamy Annadurai, director of the ISRO Satellite Centre. 

The Chandrayaan-2 Mission

Tradtionationally, a majority of the landings attempted on the moon were predominately on the moon's equator. This could pose a few problems for the Chandrayaan-2 mission. As stated by Wu Ji, director of the National Space Science Center in Beijing, "It is a difficult and complicated mission." There is less access to direct light on the poles meaning bot the lander and the rover need to be prudent with power consumption.

India Is Planning Risky Landing Near the Moon's South Pole
Source: Science Magazine

Costing $150 million, the instruments on the rover will collect a plethora of data across the moon's surface. The mission will explore the moon's thin layer of plasma to further to gain insights on isotopes such as helium-3, a potential fuel for rocket propulsion systems. The mission will explore the water molecules on the moon's surface.

The presence of the materials could prove to be beneficial for space travel in the future. Some scientists have even argued that the moon could become a refueling station for missions beyond the moon. The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter could help finally settle this argument. 

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Because of the potential power issues, the lander will complete a majority of its research on its first lunar day or 14 Earth day. The lander will be equipped both a Langmuir to measure the moon's plasmas as well as seismometer to record moonquakes.

If the mission is successful, it could pave the way for a new wave of Indian Space travel, such as landings on Mars or even on asteroids. 

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