Chandrayaan 2 Mission: Expending the Horizons


-Harsh Kumar Khatwani

Earth’s Moon is the only place beyond Earth where humans have set foot. Over 150 moons orbit the planets of the solar system and one of them is our only natural satellite The Moon. The Moon is a dusty ball of rock, measuring 3476km in diameter which is roughly a quarter of the size of the earth and the 5th largest natural satellite in our solar system. The brightest and largest object in our night sky helps us to have a stable climate on earth and it also causes tides. The moon was formed about 4.5 billion years ago, The most widely accepted explanation is that the moon formed from the debris left over when earth slammed into another early planet named Theia. The moon is rich in Helium-3, which is reported to be present on the lunar surface can be a solution to the energy crisis on earth.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced the launch of the most awaited mission of the year Chandrayaan 2 on 15th July 2019.

Inching towards the edge of discovery, Chandrayaan 2 is an Indian lunar mission that will go where no country has ever gone before – The moon’s South Polar Region.

The aim of the mission is to improve our understanding of the moon that will benefit India and humanity as a whole. These insights and experiences aimed at a paradigm shift in how lunar expeditions are approached for years to come.


The moon is our closest cosmic neighbor, which has remained a mystery for several centuries. Humans have always been curious to know about the moon and have been exploring its surface ever since they first developed telescopes. The physical exploration of the moon began when Luna 2, a space probe launched by the Soviet Union, made an impact on the surface of the moon on September 14, 1959. It leads to the space race between different countries following the human landing on the moon and since then several moon missions have taken place in search of life, water and other elements on our only natural satellite.


Chandrayan 1
Indian entry on the moon was effective as it reached the moon in its first attempt. In the year 2008 ISRO launched Chandrayaan 1 and became the 4th country on the planet to reach on the moon. Chandrayaan 1, the first lunar probe of India included Orbiter and an Impactor. India launched the spacecraft using a PSLV-XL rocket weighing 1380kg at the time of the launch. The mission was a major boost to India’s space program as India researched and developed its own technology in order to explore the moon.

A year-long moon mission revealed several unknown mysteries. Major discoveries of Chandrayaan 1 were:

- Lunar water discovery. Chandra’s Altitudinal Composition Explorer (CHACE) recorded evidence of water on the moon.

- Lunar Caves- Chandrayaan 1 imaged a lunar rille, formed by an ancient lunar lava flow.

- Data from the microwave sensor (mini-SAR) of Chandrayaan-1 processed using the image analysis software ENVI has revealed a good amount of past tectonic activity on the lunar surface.

The mission was launched on 22nd October 2008 and expected to operate for two years. However, in August 2009 communication with the spacecraft was suddenly lost. The probe operated for 312 days and ISRO declared it a Successful mission that successfully achieved 95% of its objective.



The moon is the closest cosmic body from the earth at which space discovery can be attempted. Moon has remained the area of research for several centuries for astrophysicists. After the successful journey of Chandrayaan 1 in 2008, Chandrayaan 2 attempts to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists.


Ever wondered about the origin of the earth and our solar system? Moon provides the best linkage to the earth’s early history. Like the moon’s atmosphere and the surface took undisturbed, it provides an accurate historical record of the solar system environment. 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 lunar exosphere to address the origin of water on the moon.


- 1st space mission to land on the South Pole region of the moon.
- 1st Indian expedition to attempt a soft landing on the lunar surface with homegrown technology. - 1st Indian mission to explore the lunar terrain with home-grown technology.


The lunar South Pole is especially interesting because the lunar surface area here that remains in shadow is much larger than that at the North Pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it. In addition, the South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System. Accordingly, Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to soft-land the Lander -Vikram, and rover- Pragyan in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N.
Chandrayan2- Landing on moon


- It will be injected into an earth parking 170 x40400 km orbit. 

- A series of maneuvers will be carried out to raise its orbit and put Chandrayaan-2 on Lunar Transfer Trajectory. 

- On entering Moon's sphere of influence, on-board thrusters will slow down the spacecraft for Lunar Capture. On the day of landing, the lander will separate from the Orbiter and then perform a series of complex maneuvers comprising rough braking and fine braking.

- Imaging of the landing site region prior to landing will be done for finding safe and hazard-free zones. 

- The lander-Vikram will finally land near the South Pole of the moon on 6th September 2019. - Subsequently, Rover will roll out and carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of 1 lunar day which is equal to 14 Earth days.

- The orbiter will continue its mission for the duration of one year.


Chandrayan 2 - EXPERIMENTS AND PAYLOADSChandrayaan 2 will carry more than 10 instruments and will focus on the study of topography, seismography, mineral identification and distribution, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics of topsoil and composition of the lunar atmosphere, leading to a new understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon.


- Terrain Mapping Camera 2(TMC 2): Prepares detailed 3-D map.

- Chandrayaan-2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer (CLASS): Maps abundance of major rock-forming elements.

- Solar X-ray Monitor (XSM): Observes X-rays emitted from the sun and supports CLASS.

- Orbiter High-Resolution Camera (OHRC): Provide a high-resolution image of the landing site.

- Imaging IR Spectrometer (IIRS): Identifies minerals and signatures of hydroxyl and water molecules.

- Dual Frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR): Maps lunar craters and other features especially in Polar Regions.

- Chandrayaan-2 Atmospheric Compositional Explorer 2(CHACE 2): Will carry out a detailed study of the lunar exosphere.

- Dual Frequency Radio Science (DFRS): To study the temporal evolution of electron density in the lunar ionosphere.


- Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA): Measures total electron content.

- Chandra’s Surface Thermo-physical Experiment (ChaSTE): Measures thermal properties of regolith and the polar region.

- An instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA): To detect minute ground displacement, Velocity or acceleration caused by lunar quakes.


- Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS): Determines the elemental composition of rock and soil.

- Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS): To identify and determine the abundance of elements near the landing site.

- Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA): To understand the dynamics of Earth’s Moon system and also derive clues on the Lunar interior.


India’s most powerful launch vehicle GSLV Mark III will carry Chandrayaan 2 to its destined orbit. Chandrayaan 2 will consist of Orbiter, LanderVikram, and RoverPragyan.


At the time of launch, the chandrayaan 2 orbiters will be capable of communicating with Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Bangalore as well as the Vikram Lander.

The mission life of the orbiter is one year, and it will be placed in a 100x100 km lunar polar orbit.

Lander - Vikram:

The Lander of Chandrayaan 2 is named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the Father of the Indian Space Programme. It is designed to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days. Vikram has the capability to communicate with IDSN at Byalalu near Bangalore, as well as with the Orbiter and Rover. The Lander is designed to execute a soft landing on the lunar surface

Rover - Pragyan:

Chandrayaan 2's Rover is a 6-wheeled robotic vehicle named Pragyan, which translates to 'wisdom' in Sanskrit. It can travel up to 500 m (½-a-km) and leverages solar energy for its functioning. It can only communicate with the Lander.


A. Trajectory Accuracy:

The distance to the moon is 3844 lakh km. Ensuring trajectory accuracy is important and it is influenced by the moon’s gravity which is different at different places, due to uneven surface. Other astronomical bodies and solar radiation pressure also influence the trajectory.

B. Space communications

Owing to distance and limited onboard power, there’ll be a communication delay. There will be a delay of a few minutes in every message sent.

C. Translunar injection & lunar capture

The mission will have a series of engine burns to get close to the moon whose location changes continuously. The intersection of spacecraft & the moon’s path must be predicted in advance with accuracy.

D. Orbiting around the moon.

Lunar gravity is ‘lumpy’ due to uneven mass distribution. Precise knowledge of temperatures 100km away from the moon is the key.

E. Soft Landing on the moon.

Variation in local gravity must be factored into lunar descent trajectory. All systems have to work in unison & landing site landscape features shouldn’t result in a communication shadow area.

F. Lunar Dust

Firing on-board engines close to surface results in a backward flow of hot gases & dust. Lunar dust is hard and its negative charge makes it stick to surfaces and can cause a disruption in deployment mechanisms, solar panel performance and so on.

G. Extreme Temperatures and Vacuum

A lunar day or night lasts 14 earth days. This results in extreme surface temperature variations. Ambient pressure of surface is a hard vacuum which makes it a hostile environment for lander and rover.

SOURCE: 1. ISRO Chandrayaan-2 website page, Chandrayaan-1 website page & TOI “Chandrayaan-2 nearly ready for July Launch” 10th June article.


Harsh Kumar Khatwani is a Project Assistant Manager (Science communication) of DD Science and India science at Vigyan Prasar. He has completed his post-graduation in Physics from VNIT-Nagpur. After doing short term screenplay writing workshop from FTII-Pune and Theatre workshops from NSD, he completed post-graduation in Electronic and Digital Media from Satyajit Ray Film & TV Institute, Kolkata. An enthusiast science writer who believes in explaining science in the form of stories is a hobbyist theatre artist and loves photography.

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