10 Years After Chandrayaan-1 Mission, Moon Lander Chandrayaan-2 Awaits Liftoff


Ten years ago to the day, on October 22, 2008, India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), shot a rocket into space carrying a satellite, Chandrayaan. The spacecraft, which entered the moon’s orbit 17 days later, provided India a dose of pride among its many tasks, it also landed the Indian tricolour on the lunar surface.

A few weeks from now, the mission’s successor, Chandrayaan-2, is scheduled to follow suit after many unforeseen delays in its launch date.

Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first ever planetary mission to the moon, and carried a range of experiments, both Indian and international, to the lunar orbit. The probe collected a lot of significant data over its mission to orbit and study the moon’s chemistry, geology and mineral make-up for close to a year. In the last ten years, ISRO has generated a respectable performance record.

ISRO has flown the PSLV (the rocket that carried the Chandrayaan) 31 more times, making a total of 42 flights of the rocket, of which only two – the 1st and the 39th were failures. The Indian Moon Impact Probe (MIP) of Chandrayaan-1 picked up on signatures of water in the lunar exosphere.

Among its many findings were direct evidence of water on the moon. Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper on Chandrayaan-1 was crucial to findings direct evidence that the moon does, in fact, have water on its surface. These deposits were found as water-ice concentrated near the polar regions of the moon. The second instrument on Chandrayaan-1, the Mini-Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR), also found water-ice deposits in craters on the far side of the moon.

The discovery that made headlines world-over was the first “direct evidence” of water in the moon’s atmosphere just above the Moon’s surface, collected by the Chandra’s Altitudinal Composition (CHACE) instrument as the probe descended on the moon. These discoveries were largely made because the probe’s instruments were designed to detect even traces of water – in the form of hydroxyl ions (OH) as opposed to the more familiar form of the water molecule (H20).

With all the scientific mission riding on Chandrayaan-2, a successful landing near the south pole in itself would be a remarkable feat for ISRO as well as space exploration world over, experts have said.