The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-2, India’s second mission to the moon, is set to launch on July 15. Chandrayaan-2’s lunar exploration will take place through thirteen scientific instruments called payloads that will perform a range of experiments to increase our understanding of the Moon’s surface and the exosphere.
A passive experiment from US space agency NASA will also be onboard Chandrayaan-2 to help understand the dynamics of Earth’s moon system and the lunar interior.
Chandrayaan-1, the predecessor to Chandrayaan-2, was launched in 2008 and carried 11 payloads: five from India, three from Europe, two from the United States and one from Bulgaria. Data from Chandrayaan-1 showed evidence of water in the exosphere of the Moon, on its surface as well as its sub-surface, ISRO has said.
Aside from NASA's passive experiment, Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter, soft lander and rover will carry the 13 instruments, all of which use Indian technology.
According to ISRO, the orbiter will have eight payloads. This includes a terrain mapping camera to map the lunar surface and collect data on the moon’s evolution. It will also help ISRO prepare 3-D maps of the moon’s surface.
Other instruments include CLASS (Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer) which will examine the presence of major elements like Magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Calcium, Titanium, Iron and Sodium; a solar X-ray monitor to observe X-rays emitted by the sun; an Orbiter High Resolution Camera, which helps ensure the lander can touchdown safely by detecting craters and boulders and providing high-res images of the landing site.
The orbiter’s other payloads are an Image IR Spectrometer for “global mineralogical and volatile mapping of the Moon”; Dual Frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar for high-res mapping of the polar region and a quantitative estimation of water-ice in those areas; CHACE 2 (Chandrayaan 2 Atmospheric Compositional Explorer 2) to continue an experiment started by Chandrayaan 1; and a Dual Frequency Radio Science Experiment to study the temporal evolution of electron density in the lunar ionosphere.
Chandrayaan-2’s lander, dubbed ‘Vikram’ after Dr Vikram Sarabhai — the father of India’s space programme, is set to make a soft landing near the South Pole of the moon in September. It will carry three payloads: a diagnostic tool to understand the lunar ionosphere; an instrument to measure the vertical temperature gradient and thermal conductivity on the lunar surface; and a seismometer to detect minute “ground displacement, velocity and acceleration caused by lunar quakes.”
The six-wheeled robotic rover Pragyan will carry two payloads: One instrument to determine the elemental composition of the moon’s surface near the landing site, and the other to identify and determine the abundance of elements near the landing site.