Chandrayaan-2 may shed light on Moon’s unexplored south polar

PTI, Sep 5, 2019, 5:07 PM IST

Bengaluru: With Chandrayaan-2’s ‘Vikram’ module all set for a historic soft-landing on the Moon in the early hours of Saturday, India’s second lunar expedition is expected to shed light on a completely unexplored section — its South Polar region.

Soft-landing on the south pole of the moon is considered the most challenging part of the mission.

There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it, it said, adding that in addition, South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System.

Chandrayaan-2’s lander ‘Vikram’, with rover ‘Pragyan’ housed in it, is scheduled for a powered-descent between 1 am and 2 am on September 7, followed by its touchdown between 1.30 am and 2.30 am.

Following the landing, the rover ‘Pragyan’ will roll out from ‘Vikram’ between 5.30 am and 6.30 am.

A successful landing would make India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to achieve a soft landing on the moon. But it would be the first to launch a mission to the unexplored south pole of the Moon.

ISRO has said, Chandrayaan-2 would attempt to soft land the lander ‘Vikram’ and rover ‘Pragyan’ in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at a latitude of about 70 south.

While, the ‘Pragyan’ will carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of one lunar day, which is equal to 14 earth days, the main orbiter would continue its mission for a year.

Pointing out that Chandrayaan 2 was going to South Pole, a place where nobody else has gone, ISRO Chairman K Sivan had earlier said, the entire scientific community of the nation and the globe were eagerly waiting for the mission.

According to him, there is both convenience and science involved for choosing the South Pole.

“From the science point of view, the south pole is under shadow region more than North Pole, so because of this special aspect of south pole, water is expected to be more there and also more minerals are expected to be there,” he had said.

ISRO said Moon’s south pole craters have been untouched by sunlight for billions of years offering an undisturbed record of the solar system’s origins, and its permanently shadowed craters are estimated to hold nearly 100 million tons of water.

Its regolith has traces of hydrogen, ammonia, methane, sodium, mercury and silver making it an untapped source of essential resources, the space agency said, further adding that its elemental and positional advantages makes it suitable pit stop for future space exploration.

According to the space agency, Moon provides the best linkage to Earth’s early history as it offers an undisturbed historical record of the inner Solar system environment.

Though there are a few mature models, the origin of Moon still needs further explanations, they said.

Extensive mapping of lunar surface to study variations in its composition is essential to trace back the origin and evolution of the Moon, ISRO said.

Evidence for water molecules discovered by Chandrayaan-1, requires further studies on the extent of water molecule distribution on the surface, below the surface and in the tenuous lunar exosphere to address the origin of water on Moon, he added.

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