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HomeScienceChandrayaan-2 mission is not a ‘failure’, plenty of science expected from orbiter

Chandrayaan-2 mission is not a ‘failure’, plenty of science expected from orbiter

India is anxiously waiting for official confirmation from ISRO on the fate of the Chandrayaan-2 lander, hours after the space agency lost communication with.

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Bengaluru/New Delhi: Even as ISRO chief K. Sivan broke down in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday, the Chandrayaan-2 mission still has a lot to offer to scientists, regardless of the Vikram lander’s fate.

Most of the scientific data of the mission was expected from the orbiter, rather than the lander and rover. Unlike India’s first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, where over half the payloads were from other countries, the current mission carries instruments that are indigenous. The only foreign payload — a NASA laser reflector — was on the lander.

The orbiter can still send data

Of the 14 science instruments that the three-part mission was carrying, eight are in the Chandrayaan orbiter — which was successfully inserted into the lunar orbit and will continue to revolve around the Moon for at least a year. These instruments will send back data to ISRO, furthering India’s endeavour to learn more about the Moon.

The lander and the Pragyan rover, on the other hand, would have been active for just fourteen days.

The precise launch and mission management has ensured a long life of almost seven years instead of the planned one year, ISRO said in a statement.

The Vikram Lander followed the planned descent trajectory from its orbit of 35 km to just below two km above the surface.

“All the systems and sensors of the Lander functioned excellently until this point, and proved many new technologies such as variable thrust propulsion technology used in the Lander,” the statement said.

The success criteria was defined for each phase of the mission and till date 90 to 95 per cent of the mission objectives have been accomplished, despite the loss of communication with the Lander.

Instruments on the orbiter

Among the payloads on the orbiter are two cameras. The Orbiter High Resolution Camera (OHRC) images the same location twice on different orbits and from different angles, creating digital elevated models of the lunar terrain.

A Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC2) will map the entire lunar surface in 3D. Both of these will help boost preparations for future missions.

The other payloads include a Solar X-ray Monitor (XSM), which observes X-rays from the Sun’s corona and works in conjunction with the Chandrayaan-2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer (CLASS).

This instrument will determine the levels of different elements — like silicon, calcium, aluminium, iron, sodium, and magnesium — in the lunar soil, called ‘regolith’. This will be done by measuring the X-rays they emit when they’re hit by the Sun’s rays.

There are two instruments studying water: The Imaging Infrared Spectrometer (IIRS) will perform a full mineralogical mapping of the Moon, looking for signs of water and hydroxyl (hydrogen bonded to oxygen).

Additionally, it will measure solar radiation that’s reflected off the Moon’s surface.

The Dual Frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (DFSAR) will also perform lunar mapping, determine the thickness of the regolith, and estimate the quantity of water ice, whose presence on Earth’s satellite was confirmed by Chandrayaan-1.

The last two instruments aboard the orbiter will study the lunar atmosphere.

The Chandrayaan-2 Atmospheric Compositional Explorer 2 (CHACE-2) will continue the work of CHACE-1 — which was present on the first mission’s impactor and studied the composition and variation in the lunar exosphere.

The Dual Frequency Radio Science (DFRS) experiment will study the evolution of electrons in the ionosphere of the moon by transmitting radio signals.

South Pole soil data

If the lander is indeed lost, ISRO will not be able to get data from the soil near the south pole of the Moon, which was one of the objectives of the mission. However, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will pass over the south pole and collect data.

The orbiter, as well as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), will also be able to take pictures of the intended landing site and help see what happened.

Also read: In Pictures: ISRO releases images of Earth taken by Chandrayaan 2

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  1. Just prevent the negative writers on the Print staff to start the analysis the wrong way. The Print has plenty of them on their staff. It is great achievement to reach 2 km from moon surface. Celebrate that and encourage ISRO to succeed next time.

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