Science & Tech

Chandrayaan-2: Off to the moon

Chandrayaan-2 Moon Mission was successfully launched by ISRO in a major achievement for India's space programme.

In News:

  • Chandrayaan-2 Moon Mission was successfully launched by ISRO in a major achievement for India’s space programme.

News Summary:

  • India’s quest to land its first spacecraft on the moon got off to a smooth start with the successful launch of Chandrayaan-2 mission aboard.
  • It has been deposited in an earth orbit by India’s most powerful rocket GSLV Mk-III.
  • Chandrayaan-2 will spend the next 23 days circling around the earth, incrementally raising its orbit, before it would embark on a seven-day journey to enter an orbit around the moon.


Chandrayaan 1

  • India’s first moon mission Chandrayaan-1, which involved only an orbiter, was launched in 2008. It craft carried 11 payloads, six from India, three from Europe and two from the US.
  • One of the instruments on Chandrayaan-1, the Moon Impact Probe or MIP, had been made to land on the Moon, but that was a crash-landing and was destroyed after hitting the lunar surface. The Lander and Rover on Chandrayaan-2, on the other hand, are meant to make a soft landing, and to work on the Moon.
  • The payloads in Chandrayaan-1 discovered water on the moon.
  • The spacecraft made more than 3,400 orbits around the moon during which it took hundreds of images of the moon.
  • Chandrayaan-1 mission concluded when the communication with the spacecraft was lost in 2009, having achieved 95% of its planned objectives.

Indigenous development of Lander and Rover for Chandrayaan-2

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was forced by circumstances to develop its own Lander and Rover for Chandrayaan-2.
  • Originally scheduled to launch in 2011, Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to carry a Russian-made lander and rover, since ISRO did not then have the technology to develop these.
  • The type of lander and rover that Russia was building for Chandrayaan-2, however, developed problems on another mission, forcing it to make design corrections.
  • The proposed new design would not have been compatible with Chandrayaan-2. Russia eventually pulled out, and ISRO began to develop its own Lander and Rover, a task that delayed the Mission by a few years.


Chandrayaan 1 Vs Chandrayaan 2
Chandrayaan 1 Vs Chandrayaan 2


  • Chandrayaan-2 mission involves a lander, a rover and an orbiter and will have 14 payloads, all of which are Indian.
  • Lander: Named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, Father of the Indian Space Programme. The Vikram Lander has been designed to be able to communicate with the Indian Deep Satellite Network near Bengaluru, as well as with the Orbiter and Rover.
  • Orbiter: It is capable of communicating with Indian Deep Satellite Network near Bengaluru, and with the Lander. It will go around the moon for the next one year in an orbit of 100 km from the lunar surface.
  • Rover: A 6-wheel robotic vehicle named Pragyan (wisdom). It can travel up to 500 m and will leverage solar energy for its functioning. It can only communicate with the Lander.

Flight details

  • After the launch, the integrated module will reach the moon orbit using an orbiter propulsion module.
  • Once Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft reaches the lunar orbit, the lander will separate from the orbiter and soft-land at the predetermined site close to the south pole.
  • Once the lander lands on the lunar surface, rover Prayan will come out of it and roll out on the lunar surface for 300-400 metre.
  • It will spend 14 earth days on the moon for carrying out different scientific experiments. The rover will analyse the content of the lunar surface and send data and images back to the Earth through the orbiter.

Mission Vehicle

  • The mission vehicle is a GSLV Mk-III rocket, a relatively new rocket of ISRO is critical to ISRO’s future missions.
  • However, the mainstay of ISRO’s launches over the last three decades has been the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), a rocket that has failed on only two of its 48 launches since the early 1990s. Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan too, were launched by PSLV.

Why wasn’t PSLV used for Chandrayaan-2?

  • PSLV has its limitations. It does not have enough power to carry heavier satellites, or to go deeper into space.
  • PSLV can deliver a payload of about 1750 kg to lower Earth orbits, up to an altitude of 600 km from the Earth’s surface. It can go a few hundred kilometres higher in Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), but only with a reduced payload. Chandrayaan-1 weighed 1380 kg, while Mangalyaan had a liftoff mass of 1337 kg.
  • However, there are satellites that are much heavier — in the range of 4,000-6,000 kg or more — and need to be put into geostationary orbits that are over 30,000 km from Earth. Rockets that carry such massive satellites need to have substantially more power.


  • GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) rockets use a different fuel, and have a thrust that is far greater than PSLV’s.
  • They can, therefore, carry heavier payloads and travel deeper into space. Chandrayaan-2, for example, had a total mass close to 4,000 kg.
  • It is powered by a core liquid engine, has two solid boosters that are used to provide the massive thrust required during liftoff, and a cryogenic engine in the upper stage.

Significance of GSLV Mk-III

  • ISRO intends to use the rocket, a product of over three decades of research and development, for all future deep space exploration missions, including Gaganyaan, India’s first human mission, scheduled to be launched before 2022.
  • The vehicle is also projected to be a big revenue generator for ISRO.

Significance of the Mission

Space Exploration

  • Evolution of Moon:
    • Chandrayaan-2 mission will help India and the world gain a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon by conducting detailed topographical studies, comprehensive mineralogical analyses, and a host of other experiments on the lunar surface.
  • Understanding of the Solar System
    • Unlike the earth, the moon does not have a tilt around its axis. It is almost erect, because of which some areas in the polar region never receive sunlight.
    • Anything here remains frozen, almost for eternity. Scientists believe that rocks found in these craters could have fossil records that can reveal information about the early solar system.

Habitability of Moon:

  • Quest for Water
    • Two instruments on board Chandrayaan-1 provided irrefutable evidence of water on the Moon, something that had been elusive for more than four decades.
    • Chandrayaan-2 will take the search further, trying to assess the abundance and distribution of water on the surface.
  • Quest for lunar station:
    • The Mission will try to find possibilities of sustaining human life on Earth’s natural satellite with an aim to colonising it.
    • It is also likely to look for a large cave, whose images were captured by Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, that could serve as a base for future manned missions.
    • This is because it is very difficult for humans to survive on Moon’s surface due to hazardous radiation, micro-meteoritic impacts, extreme temperature and dust storms.
    • Chandrayaan-1’s stereoscope imagery suggests the cave is made of remnants of an ancient lava tube located 160m below the lunar surface, 2km long and 360m wide.
    • Such a lava tube could be a potential site for future human habitability on the moon for future human missions and scientific explorations, providing a safe environment (to humans).


  • India joins illustrious league of nations to ever land on the Moon
    • With Chandrayaan 2, the country has joined the illustrious league of four nations across the world to make a soft landing on the lunar surface.
    • Previously, China, the United States and the former Soviet Union have attempted soft landing on the moon.
    • This puts India among the global leaders for space technology and research, while the discoveries during the mission will scale new frontiers for science.
  • First space mission to land on the Moon’s South Polar Region
    • It is also the first Indian lunar expedition to attempt a soft landing on the lunar surface with home grown technology.
    • This has made the mission even more unique as the South Polar region of the moon’s terrain has not been explored or sampled by any other country in the past.


  • Indigenous development
    • The mighty launch vehicle GSLV Mk -III has been completely designed and made within the country, making it a fully home-grown technology, hence Chandrayaan 2 is a fully indigenous mission.
  • Frugal cost of engineering
  • Chandrayaan 2 also stands out for its frugal cost of engineering as its total cost is way lower than several other lunar missions.
  • Specifically, the total cost of Chandrayaan 2 is Rs 978 crore or $142 million which includes the mission cost of Rs 603 crore and the cost of its launch which is Rs 375 crore.
  • In this way, ISRO has carved a niche for itself across the globe, in the sphere of astronomy and space research for running cost-effective as well as less expensive projects.


  • Led by India’s ‘Rocket Women’
  • Apart from having many first-time milestones, the Chandrayaan 2 project is being spearheaded by two senior women scientists of ISRO.
  • ISRO’s RituKaridhal and MuthayyaVanitha, popularly known as India’s ‘Rocket Women’ were leading the project for all its main components.
  • The mission will inspire a future generation of scientists, engineers and explorers including women who will not only endeavour to break the doors of patriarchy but rise high above in the space.

Details of Missions from other countries

  • Russia, US and China are the only countries so far to land spacecraft on the moon.
  • Israel also made an attempt to land, but its Beresheet Spacecraft failed to land on the moon in April, 2019.
  • If the Chandrayaan-2 mission is successful, India will become the fourth country to do so.

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