India launches Chandrayaan-2 on lunar inventory mission
July 15, 2019
India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, aboard the country’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, heads to the Moon from the Sriharikota spaceport. It will attempt a soft landing some 372.8 miles (600 km) from the lunar south pole, the first touchdown so far from the equator. The briefcase-size rover will also carry two spectrometers for probing the lunar surface's elemental composition during a 14-Earth day lunar cycle.
The launch has been delayed several times, most recently from Jan 2019.
The briefcase-size rover will also carry two spectrometers for probing the lunar surface’s elemental composition during a 14-Earth day lunar cycle.
Science Magazine notes that for some scientists, the most anticipated data will come from the orbiter’s water mapper. Protons in the solar wind generate hydroxyl ions when they strike oxides in the regolith, the article explains. The ions drift to the poles, where they are trapped in craters as water ice, which the orbiter will map.
Muthayya Vanitha, Chandrayaan-2’s project director at ISRO, India’s space agency, explains that locating substantial water "could pave the way for the future habitation of the Moon" as water is a limiting factor for operating a base.
ISRO sent Chandrayaan-1, its first lunar spacecraft, on a similar mission in Oct 2008. It photographed and mapped the surface for chemicals and minerals until Aug 2009 before losing contact. NASA radar rediscovered it in 2017.