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[op-ed snap] Ready to reveal secrets from the right side of the moon

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Chandrayaan 2

CONTEXT

On 7 September, when the Vikram Lander ejects the Pragyan Rover to roll out and analyse the lunar terrain, India is the world’s first country to land on the moon’s highly uneven south pole. 

Background

    • It is labeled as “India’s Sputnik moment”, for its big leap forward for Indian science.
    • Such missions require decades of scientific effort, government planning, and adequate allocation of resources.

Importance of the event

    • It shows the ability to orbit a solar-system object.
    • It shall demonstrate the capability to land on the surface and carry out scientifically valuable exploratory missions around landing points through robotic rovers.
    • Data from the eight scientific payloads would make precise measurements of the chemical and mineral composition of the moon, map the topography of the lunar surface to intensify a search for the presence of hydroxyl and water molecules.
    • Exploring the south pole area will significantly improve our understanding of the moon as it contains an undisturbed historical record of the inner solar system environment.

Background of Chandrayaan

  • India had conducted an exhaustive study over 1999 to 2003 to chart out its future space missions. 
  • The study led to the decision of India’s first moon mission, Chandrayaan-1.
  • The decision was influenced by two factors: 
      • satellite-building and launch vehicle capabilities of ISRO and the interest of India’s scientific community
      • opportunity to upgrade our technological capabilities in areas such as control, guidance and navigation, deep-space communications, and other fields
  • Chandrayaan-1 satisfactorily fulfilled its mission objectives.
      • It discovered the possible existence of water in the exosphere and on the surface as well as sub-surface of the moon
      • mapped the mineralogical and chemical properties of the lunar regolith, atmosphere and ionosphere
      • studied aspects of solar radiation interaction with the moon

Indian space mission today

    • India’s launch vehicle program has matured; As of 2018, India had launched 237 satellites for 28 different countries.
    • Using these technologies, India has also built a series of sophisticated satellites for applications such as remote sensing, communication, broadcasting and navigation and for scientific missions
    • In this background, Chandrayaan 2, involving far higher level of technology, more detailed scientific measurements and increase in complexity was approved.

What it holds for the future

    • India hopes to play its rightful role in such future ventures which could be mostly international
    • The use of the moon as a take-off point to reach other locations in the solar system is also recognized as an attractive strategy
    • The preliminary experience gained from Chandrayaan 2 could be very valuable from technical and scientific points of view.
    • Near-Earth orbital missions, geosynchronous missions, near-Earth human spaceflight missions, robotic lunar and planetary exploration involving many solar system objects will be well within India’s reach in the next decade
    • The mission is a boost for India to conceive even more complex undertakings to nearby and distant planets and other bodies of the solar system like Gaganyaan.

Challenges remain

    • The allocation of resources to research and development in India is the lowest among BRICS nations. In 2014-15, India spent only about 0.69% of GDP on R&D, while Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa spent 1.24%, 1.19%, 2.05%, and 0.75%, respectively.
    • Also, the level of spending on R&D as a fraction of GDP has remained stagnant for the past two decades.

CONCLUSION

The success of the Chandrayaan 2 mission should draw the attention of our policymakers to increase the country’s level of support to science.

 

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