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What Chandrayaan-2 will accomplish and why the mission is significant for India

File photo: Chandrayaan-2, India's second mission to the Moon. Photograph:( AFP )

WION Web Team New Delhi Jul 22, 2019, 03.00 PM (IST)

India made history on July 22 when its low-cost moon mission, the Chandrayaan-2, lifted off successfully from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh's Sriharikota.

Almost the entire Chandrayaan-2's orbiter, lander and rover have been designed and made in India.

India used its most powerful rocket launcher, GSLV Mk-III, to carry the 2.4 tonne orbiter, which has a mission life of about a year.

The spacecraft carried the 1.4 tonne lander Vikram - which in turn is taking the 27-kilogramme (60-pound) rover Pragyan - to a high plain between two craters on the lunar South Pole when it lands on the moon in September, 2019.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K Sivan said Vikram's 15-minute final descent "will be the most terrifying moments as we have never undertaken such a complex mission".

The solar-powered rover can travel up to 500 metres (yards) and is expected to work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days.

Sivan said the probe will be looking for signs of water and "a fossil record of the early solar system".

Most experts say the geo-strategic stakes are small - but that India's low-cost model could win commercial satellite and orbiting deals.

"The fundamental question that we should ask ourselves in this context is not whether India should undertake such ambitious space ventures, but whether India can afford to ignore it," said K Kasturirangan, a former ISRO chief.

India has to aim to be a leader in space, he added.

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of space policy at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank, said Chandrayaan-2 will enhance the nation's reputation "at a time when the global and particularly, the Asian space programmes are becoming increasingly competitive".

Amitabha Ghosh, a scientist for NASA's Rover mission to Mars, said the benefits of Chandrayaan-2 are huge, compared to its cost.

"A spacecraft mission of the complexity of Chandrayaan-2 conveys a message that India is capable of delivering on difficult technology development endeavours," said Ghosh.

Scott Hubbard, a former top NASA researcher now with Stanford University, examined the cost-effectiveness of the Indian Mars orbiter against the American Maven mission.

Although both launched in 2013, Maven is estimated to have cost 10 times more, but India's Mangalyaan was only designed to last about a year.

"The US mission was required to last two years. That's a big difference in cost," said Hubbard. And Mangalyaan's payload was 15 kg, while Maven could carry 65 kg with more sophisticated instruments.

"So you get what you pay for," concluded Hubbard.

Story highlights

India used its most powerful rocket launcher, GSLV Mk III, to carry the 2.4 tonne orbiter, which has a mission life of about a year