An ambitious dream of placing a rover on the Moon stands postponed now with the Chandrayaan-2 launch being called off over a technical glitch. What is next for India’s second Moon mission? Dev Goswami specially for the India Today.
The launch of Chandrayaan-2, India’s second Moon mission, was dramatically called off less than an hour before the lift-off time early Monday morning. It was an anti climatic moment that capped a thrilling Sunday night, which saw both the Cricket World Cup Final and the Wimbledon Final go down to heart-stopping tie-breakers.
The decision to call off the launch was taken due to a “technical snag”, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said in a statement. “A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at 1 hour before the launch,” Isro said. “[A] Revised launch date will be announced later.”
Isro did not elaborate on the technical snag, but top sources within the space agency told AajTak.in that improper fuel pressure was among the reasons to call off the Chandrayaan-2 launch.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission was called off around 56 minutes before the scheduled launch time of 2:51am. An hour earlier, Isro had tweeted to say that filling of liquid hydrogen into the rocket’s cryogenic stage (the last stage of three-stage GSLV Mk-III rocket) had been completed.
Meet the GSLV Mk-III ‘Bahubali’ rocket
- The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III, or GSLV Mk-III, is the most powerful rocket developed by the Isro and has a capacity to carry payloads of up to 4,000 tonnes.
- The GSLV Mk-III is three-stage rocket: The first stage consists of strap on tanks that burn solid fuel, the second stage has a core booster that burns liquid fuel and the third is a cryogenic engine that burns liquid hydrogen.
- The Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to be the fourth flight of the GSLV Mk-III rocket. The highly capable rocket will also be used for Isro’s manned space mission, which is currently scheduled for 2022.
According to the Isro source who spoke to AajTak.in, the fuel pressure in this last stage was not at the optimal level. The pressure kept decreasing and so, Isro decided to postpone the Chandrayaan-2 launch.
Apart from its terse tweet announcing that the Chandrayaan-2 mission has been called off for now, the Indian Space Research Organisation has not said much about what happens next.
However, a report by the news agency Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), said that the space agency will now focus on investigating what went wrong on the GSLV Mk-III.
Significantly, the problem observed was onboard the rocket and not the Chandrayaan-2 payload, which means that the entire mission is not currently in jeopardy.
What is Chandrayaan-2?
India’s second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-2 aimed to place a rover on the lunar surface, a feat previously accomplished only by three other countries — the US, Russia and China.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission consists of an orbiter, a lander named Vikram and a rover named Pragyaan.
Among the experiments the Chandrayaan-2 will conduct are tests to understand the spread of water molecules on the lunar surface.
According to the IANS report, Isro scientists will now empty the GSLV Mk-III rocket of the fuel filled for the Chandrayaan-2 mission. The rocket will then be examined to identify the root cause of the technical glitch noticed during the launch countdown.
It is reportedly expected that this process of examining the rocket will take around 10 days, which puts a question mark on when Chandrayaan-2 will be launched again.
Earlier this year, when the Isro announced the Chandrayaan-2 launch dates, Isro had said that the launch window (a time period within which space missions must be launched) would end on July 16.
With just a day to go for the launch window to end, it is possible that Chandrayaan-2 mission might be pushed back a few months.
A DREAM DATE MISSED
Had Chandrayaan-2 launched at its scheduled time of 2:51am on July 15, it would have been a dream tryst with destiny. For, the launch would have taken place in the same week as the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 mission that placed humans on the Moon.
The Apollo 11 spacecraft launched from the John F Kennedy Space Center in the United States on July 16, 1969.
Four days later, on July 20, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on to the lunar surface with the now-historic words: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
CHANDRAYAAN-2: WHY IS IT SPECIAL?
With Chandrayaan-2, India aims to become only the fourth country in the world to land a rover on the Moon. Previously, only the United States, Russia and China have landed rovers on the Moon.
However, none have gone where Isro aims to go with Chandrayaan-2 — Moon’s south pole region. The site was chosen because of the possibility of finding water in areas that remain permanently under a shadow and because of the presence of certain craters that may contain fossilised records of the early Solar System.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission payload
An oribter that will revolve around the Moon for around a year and study the satellite’s outer atmosphere.
A lander named Vikram that will detach from the orbiter and perform a ‘soft landing’ near the Moon’s south pole.
A rover named Pragyaan that will leave the lander and roam the lunar surface for around 14 Earth days, performing surface and sub-surface experiments.
Among the most significant experiments Chandrayaan-2 plans to conduct are tests to further the discovery of water on the Moon made by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008-09.
Chandrayaan-2 plans to carry out tests to understand the extent of the spread of water molecules under the lunar surface.
The ambitious Moon mission is also a precursor to an even more ambitious project — sending Indians to space.
An Indian — former Indian Air Force pilot Rakesh Sharma — has gone to space. However, he travelled as a cosmonaut onboard a Russian spacecraft.
Under the Gaganyaan mission, Isro aims to send three Indians to space on an Indian-built spacecraft strapped onto an Indian rocket.
The rocket has already been identified — the GSLV Mk-III, the same rocket that was to fly Chandrayaan-2 to space this week.
With the mission having being called off for now, we will wait as India postpones its date with destiny.