As India prepares for its third moon mission, scientists at the Space Physics Laboratory (SPL) of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) here are looking to turn a four-year-old disappointment into one big triumph.
These payloads — Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) and Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA) — are also part of the upcoming Chandrayaan-3 mission, providing the SPL and ISRO a second chance at studying certain vital aspects of earth’s lone natural satellite.
ISRO Chairman S. Somanath recently announced the space agency’s plans for a mid-July launch for Chandrayaan-3. According to the ISRO, it is meant ‘‘as a follow-up mission to Chandrayaan-2 to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface”.
This time too, ChaSTE and RAMBHA will be ‘riding’ on the lander, which will have four scientific payloads in all.
ChaSTE, developed by the SPL in collaboration with the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, is designed to measure the thermal properties of the lunar regolith near the polar region. RAMBHA, a Langmuir Probe, will measure near-surface plasma density and how it changes with time.
Together weighing about 12 kg, they are similar in configuration to the ones designed for Chandrayaan-2, says SPL Director K. Rajeev. ‘‘People have been working day in, day out to ensure everything goes off all right,’‘ he says.
On the other hand, Chandrayaan-2 was not entirely a tale of disappointment for the SPL. Although the Vikram lander crash dashed its hopes with regard to the payloads on it, the SPL enjoyed success with another payload that was on the mission’s orbiter.
The Chandra’s Atmospheric Composition Explorer-2 (CHACE-2), a quadrupole mass spectrometer, recorded the first observations of the distribution of Argon-40 in the lunar exosphere.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission, which will take to the skies on the hefty LVM3 launch vehicle, consists of a lunar lander and a rover. A propulsion module will carry them into a 100-km polar orbit around the moon. The rover will be deployed on the moon’s surface from the lander. The propulsion module will have one scientific payload, the lander four, and the rover two.