In a rather interesting estimate released by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the most anticipated Chandrayaan-II mission will be launched somewhere in April 2018 at a cost of around INR 800 crore. To put things into perspective, the cost of making the Hollywood movie ‘Interstellar’ which went smashing blockbuster was $165 million i.e. INR 1,062 crore. This makes the second moon landing by ISRO a cost-effective mission. ISRO has been taking strict measurements on limiting wastage and using resources to their full extent which has brought down the cost of such rather costly and valuable mission to the moon.
This isn’t the first time when ISRO had achieved such a feat and that too at such a cost-effective budget. In 2013 when ISRO launched the first Chandrayaan-I which would eventually find traces of water on Moon was sent at a price of mere INR 470 crore. If that is too much, the money ‘Gravity’ starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney was made with a budget of staggering $100 million or INR 644 crore and that too in the same year (2013). ISRO has been developing and perfecting the components, instruments, and other parts of the orbiter with precision and accuracy since, the project is presently on-time and as per schedule.
In an exciting interview with Dr. K Sivan, ISRO Chairman, he said that his team is keeping a close watch on the development of rockets and spacecraft to avoid wastage that will eventually increase the cost of the project. This proved instrumental in bringing the cost down to less than the budget of a Hollywood movie. Moving further, he said that they have identified two landing sites on the moon where the spacecraft will be soft-landed, however, it would take some more time to select one of them. As per the schedule, Chandrayaan-II will be launched from Sriharikota in April 2018 after which, it will cruise for about one or two months to reach the lunar orbit. ISRO has chosen GSLV Mk II to launch the spacecraft.
The spacecraft will have three stages i.e. orbiter, lander, and the rover. The orbiter will be responsible for cruising amidst the vacuum of the universe at a set trajectory. When the spacecraft reaches a distance of 100 km from the lunar surface, the lander will take the command. ISRO had planned for a soft landing after which the rover will be set out of the payload carrier. The rover in itself is a marvel of technology with state-of-the-art equipment. It will be semi-autonomous and will be controlled by the ground control as well as the route and other details already fed onto its system. The rover will collect and conduct experiments and analyze the lunar soil to examine its chemical composition and other required details.
The launch window is from April to November wherein, ISRO will choose a favorable date preferably for a dawn-to-dusk landing. In case if there is no suitable window available or due to eclipse, the launch will be postponed to November 2018 or further. Dr. V Sivan added that the launch date will depend upon the relative position of the moon with respect to the Earth. Both Russia’s Luna and NASA’s Apollo mission were headed towards the equatorial region of the moon. On the contrary, ISRO is planning for a site near the South Pole due to prominence of large and old rocks that will describe how it came to be and what is it made up of. The rover will detach from the lander to move within the distance of 100 to 200 meters and will be alive for 14 Earth days i.e. One Lunar Day during which, it will be sending data continuously to the ground control using radio waves.
“After reaching the moon’s orbit, the lander will get detached from the orbiter and do a soft-landing near the South Pole of the Moon. The 6-wheeled rover fixed within the lander will get detached and move on the lunar surface. The rover has been designed in such a way that it will have power to spend a lunar day or 14 Earth days on the moon’s surface and walk up to 150-200 km. It will do several experiments and on-site chemical analysis of the surface,” Sivan added.
TOI reported the incident with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission for Mars which failed. ISRO was to pair up with Russia’s Space Agency where the latter promised to provide a rover. After the failure of the Mars mission, Russia wanted some time while Indian scientists wanted to launch an indigenous rover and lander. This is the reason why, ISRO settled for indigenous rover and lander developed and assembled in Chitradurga, Mahendragiri, Bengaluru, etc.