“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”
The moon has forever been a fascinating object for man to ponder upon, and let loose a series of ideas which includes studying the moon surface or landing actual humans on the moon. Technology had been advancing in leaps and bounds since day one, and countries around the globe have been working towards discovering the surface of the moon. There have been a lot of moon landings ever since the Soviet Union’s Luna 2 mission landed on the surface on the moon on September 13, 1959. The space fraternity has not looked back ever since.
The USA and the erstwhile Soviet Union, now Russia have regularly been at the forefront of the space exploration programs. The first camera to ever land on the moon was designed and sent by the Soviets. However, America was the first to send a man to the moon. Rest is history.
India’s tryst with the moon kicked off in October 2008 when the Indian Space Agency ISRO launched the first Indian lunar probe which was called the Chandrayaan 1. It was initially was a two-year mission but due to recurring technical difficulties, the mission was terminated within a year on August 2009. However, ISRO stated that the lunar probe achieved 95 percent of its mission objectives. The total cost of the mission was Rs 386 crore (USD 56 million).
The Chandrayaan-1 mission consisted of a lunar orbiter and an impactor and was launched using the PSLV-XL launch vehicle on October 22, 2008, from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The mission did have a lot of difficulties too. “During the second stage (engine) fuel loading operations a day prior to the launch, there was a leak. The leak was from the joint between the rocket and the ground equipment,” MYS Prasad, then Range Operations Director told IANS.
“The leak was diagnosed at the tricky tibia joint between the propellant filling unit and the launcher,” said K Radhakrishnan, then Director Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), and who later retired as ISRO Chairman, was quoted by a media report.
The VSSC was tasked with the responsibility of building the PSLV-XL rocket for Chandrayaan-1 and also the Moon Impact Probe, Radhakrishnan said.
Recalling the fuel leak, Radhakrishnan said the ISRO team had to be fully alert against a combining of hypergolic fuel and oxidizer.
“This meant spontaneous ignition in case the two came into contact. Probable simultaneous leaks in both the fuel and oxidizer lines could have caused a catastrophic fire,” Radhakrishnan said.
Now coming to the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), which is a specific moon mission spearheaded by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The lunar program is also known as the Chang’e Project, named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e. The Chang’e project is a series of robotic Moon missions by the China National Space Administration. The programs bring in lunar orbiters, landers, rovers and sample return spacecraft, which are launched using Long March rockets.
China’s tryst with the Moon started with the Chang’e 1 lunar orbiter which was used to scan the moon and mapped the presence and distribution of a number of chemical elements on the lunar surface as a part of finding potentially useful resources. The second mission Chang’e 2 mapped out the moon in greater detail and also to test out their Telemetry, Tracking, and Command system. This concluded the first phase of the lunar mission. The second phase included the Chang’e 3 which landed on the moon at the area called Mare Imbrium, as opposed to the original landing site called Sinus Iridium.
The Chang’e 4 was launched on December 2018 which landed in January 2019 on the South Pole Aitkin Basin which is situated on the far side of the moon. The China Space Agency is planning to send a manned crew to the lunar surface in the 2030s.
India’s second moon mission is going to be a lengthy one, with the orbiter scheduled to orbit the moon while on the mission and then perform a soft landing at a site close to the lunar South Pole. Later when it reaches the surface, the six-wheeled Pragyan rover is planned to be deployed on the Moon’s surface where it is expected to carry out experiments all the while being controlled by ISRO scientists back at Earth. The lander called Vikram will be landing on the far South Pole of the moon.
The mission’s lander is called Vikram and was named after Vikram Sarabhai (1919-1971), who is popularly regarded as the father of the Indian space program. The Vikram lander will detach itself from the orbiter and will descend to a lunar orbit using its 800 N liquid main engines. It will also perform a systems comprehensive check before attempting to make a successful landing on the Monn surface.