WHY CHANDRAYAAN-3’S SOFT MOON LANDING IS SO DIFFICULT

World News

The Chandrayaan-3 mission’s primary goal is to show that it is capable of safely landing and wandering on the lunar surface from start to finish. Space experts predict that gentle landings on the moon will provide a unique set of difficulties.

The space community is hopeful that the Chandrayaan-3 project would achieve its goal of a smooth landing after ISRO Chairman S. Somanath expressed confidence in it. Recent lunar landing missions have had varying degrees of success. Other missions, including those by India and two private corporations, have crashed, despite China’s successful moon landing. This implies that there are still difficulties to be solved before a person may successfully arrive on the moon.

There are still a number of future lunar landing missions scheduled for the second half of this year, despite the recent failure of iSpace’s HAKUTO-R mission, which crashed on the moon on April 25. These missions, which are being carried out by both governmental and private organisations, show a resurgent interest in lunar research and have the promise of producing fresh scientific findings, according to space and aerospace specialist Girish Linganna.

Chandrayaan-3, India’s third lunar mission, is scheduled to take off this month. The Vikram lander crashed during its descent to the moon during Chandrayaan-2, the nation’s previous effort, in July 2019. However, Chandrayaan-3 represents a big step in the direction of India’s objective of being successful in its lunar exploration operations. It’s interesting to note that only three nations—the United States, Russia, and China—have successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon to yet. These missions, which have all been supported by the government, are the result of years of study and development.

Two commercial businesses had problems with their lunar landing attempts in 2019. Both SpaceIL’s Beresheet lander in April and India’s Chandrayaan-2 lander in July failed to make a secure landing on the moon. The difficulties of landing on the moon are highlighted by these failures, but they also show how interested people are becoming in lunar exploration.

“Several organisations are still intending to set foot on the moon in the near future, despite the failures of earlier trips. In addition to the July launch of India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, iSpace has announced plans for additional launches in the months to come. Additionally, plans to set foot on the moon in 2023 are being solidified by two US businesses, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines. This exciting resurgence in interest in lunar exploration raises the possibility that a new age in space exploration is just around the corner, continued Linganna.

Despite the recent failures, ISRO is sure that it has gained knowledge from them and is ready for its future Chandrayaan-3 mission. A follow-up mission to Chandrayaan-2, Chandrayaan-3 will show off India’s comprehensive capability for a secure landing and wandering on the lunar surface. The GSLV Mk III or LVM3 will launch the mission, which will include a lander and a rover, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The lander and rover combination will be propelled to a 100-kilometer lunar orbit by the propulsion module.

The three main goals of the Chandrayaan-3 mission are to safely land on the moon’s surface, deploy a rover, and carry out scientific research. The lander payload will be in charge of the secure landing, and the propulsion module will deliver the lander and rover to the moon. The scientific investigations will then be carried out to understand more about the moon before the rover is launched to investigate the lunar surface.

The Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload, which will examine the spectral and polarimetric data of earth from the lunar orbit, is also carried by the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s propulsion module. By doing so, scientists will be better able to comprehend the atmosphere and climate of the earth and find other planets that may harbour life.

The Chandra Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE), which will study the lunar surface’s thermal conductivity and temperature, is one of three instruments that make up the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s lander payload. Using the Langmuir Probe (LP) to calculate the plasma density and its changes and the Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) to monitor the seismicity in the area of the landing site.

NASA’s passive Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA), which will be utilised for lunar laser range experiments, is also part of the lander payload. The Chandrayaan-3 mission’s rover payload comprises of two experiments, including the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), which analyses the X-rays and gamma rays given off by the elements to determine their elemental composition.

By examining the light emitted when a laser is shot at the surface, Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) can determine the elements that make up the lunar surface.

“On April 25, 2023, the Hakuto-R lunar lander—named for the Moon-dwelling white rabbit of Japanese folklore—which Japan and the UAE had partnered on for the historic Lunar Mission—crash-landed close to the Atlas crater. On December 11, 2022, SpaceX launched the spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida. One of the payloads of iSpace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander was the Rashid rover (HOPE) from the United Arab Emirates. The 10-kilogram rover’s purpose was to explore the lunar surface for two weeks while returning useful photos. But on April 25, 2023, the lander crashed, ending UAE’s expectations for a fruitful mission, according to Linganna.

Syed Maqbool Ahmed, the principal payload scientist at the space firm XDLINX Labs, recently brought up the fact that even with powerful rockets, landing on the moon is a difficult manoeuvre that takes a week or more. The lander must be brought to a complete stop after being slowed down from its orbital speed of 5,000 to 7,000 kilometres per hour. As there is no atmosphere on the moon to slow the lander down using a parachute, this is accomplished by firing retro-rocket engines. Many recent human attempts to land on the moon have failed due to this difficult challenge.

Due to Chandrayaan-2’s failure, ISRO had started a thorough investigation of the mission, carefully examining every element to pinpoint possibilities for improvement. In addition to fixing the problems that caused the previous failure, the objective was to improve their technologies in order to considerably raise the likelihood of a successful soft landing with Chandrayaan-3.

“The software systems were a crucial area that attracted a lot of interest. The onboard software was optimised using cutting-edge simulations and algorithms, allowing for perfect coordination, control, and navigation. These improvements made it possible for the team to practise different landing scenarios, ensuring that they were ready for any eventuality and strengthening the mission’s overall resilience. But software advancements were just the start. To improve its capabilities and boost the likelihood of a successful touchdown, the lander itself underwent significant modifications. Engineers meticulously examined the lander’s legs, reducing the chance of harm after landing and hardening them to resist the rough lunar terrain. In order to ensure safe and precise navigation during the descent, the lander’s sensors received extensive upgrades, according to Srimathy Kesan, founder and CEO of Space Kidz India, a company that specialises in the design, fabrication, and launch of small satellites, spacecraft, and ground systems.

Kesan continued by stating that the power grid was yet another crucial area that needed attention. Modern solar power technology, including larger and more effective solar panels, is currently used by the lander and rover. With the help of this improvement, the mission will have a consistent power source, allowing for more extensive exploration and efficient data collection on the lunar surface.

“Despite these improvements, it’s still incredibly difficult to make a smooth landing on the moon. Chandrayaan-3’s intended location of the lunar South Pole faces its own distinct set of challenges. It necessitates an incredible degree of precision due to the terrain’s craters and rocks, as well as how rough and uneven it is. The success of the operation could be put in jeopardy by even the smallest error in judgement or unforeseen difficulty, continued Kesan.

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