The Science of India’s Chandrayaan-2 Mission to the Moon’s South Pole

The Indian Space Research Organisation is poised to launch its Chandrayaan-2 mission Sunday (July 14) to deploy a lander and rover where no one has dared before — the south pole of the moon.

It’s a region that is generally rich in water ice and in sunlight, which are both essential components for future human Mars missions. So you can think of the Indian spacecraft as a scout for astronauts that may follow some year — as soon as 2024, if the Trump administration’s direction to NASA goes as planned.

This means that the science of India’s Chandrayaan-2 will be helpful in planning these future human missions. Besides that, learning more about the moon’s geological history will teach us about other rocky bodies in the solar system with a tenuous atmosphere, such as Mercury. By studying one world, we can often make conclusions about others.

Chandrayaan-2 will build on the work of its predecessor orbital mission Chandrayaan-1, which is most famous for helping to discover molecules of water on the moon a decade ago. The mission costs a relatively low $140 million, according to the Times of India.

Coincidentally, Chandrayaan-2 is also launching just days before the 50th anniversary of the first human moon landing — Apollo 11 — on July 20.(source)

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