ISRO chairman, Mr S Somanath recently made a major statement about India’s third lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3. He discussed the resilient design of ‘Vikram’, the lunar mission’s lander.
“The entire design of the lander ‘Vikram’ has been made in a manner that makes sure that it would be able to handle failures,” he asserted during a talk on ‘Chandrayaan-3: Bharat’s Pride Space Mission’.
Even if all sensors fail and two of its engines are unable to function, Vikram will still manage a soft landing on the Moon’s surface. That’s how robust it’s built.
The ISRO chief rallied excitement when he said, Chandrayaan-3, which entered the lunar orbit on August 5, will land on the Moon’s surface on August 23.
The Path to Landing
Three de-orbiting maneuvers are in the pipeline. Scheduled for August 9, 14, and 16, these exercises will gently nudge Vikram closer to the Moon. The goal is to decrease its orbit to a manageable 100 kmx100 km span from the Moon.
Following the last of these maneuvers, a lander propulsion module separation exercise will be executed. This is a prelude to the ‘deboost’ stage, where the lander’s speed is reduced.
August 23 – Mark this date. This is when Vikram, overcoming multiple potential failures, will land on the lunar surface. With intricate operations and calculations, Vikram’s journey is remarkable indeed.
One would think landing on the surface itself would be the major challenge. However, according to Mr Somanath, turning the horizontally positioned Vikram into a vertical stance to land on the lunar surface is the trickiest part of the whole mission.
This maneuver is a crucial yet delicate process that devoured Chandrayaan-2’s chance of successful landing. Furthermore, other aspects like conserving fuel, precision in distance calculations, and ensuring that algorithms work correctly are areas of focus.
ISRO acknowledges the uncertainty of space travel and has made provisions for slight miscalculations in the new mission. According to Mr Somanath, even if some variations occur in the calculations, Vikram is designed to still make an effective landing attempt.
Vikram is not going up empty-handed. It will be carrying four strategic payloads, including Chandra’s Surface Thermo Physical Experiment (ChaSTE), RAMBHA-LP payload, Laser Retroreflector Array from NASA, and an Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity. Furthermore, The rover ‘Pragyan’ will carry an array of experimental tools including a Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope, an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, and one unique payload designed to study the spectro-polarimetric signature of the habitable planet Earth!
All in all, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 Mission isn’t just India’s pride. It stands as a testament to the marvels of human ingenuity, resilience, and the unending pursuit towards understanding the cosmos.