Chandrayaan-3 takes India to Moon
India recently launched its Chandrayaan-3 mission on 14th July to land a rover near the moon’s south pole. Here are some key facts:
- Chandrayaan-3 will be India’s third lunar mission after Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Chandrayaan-2 in 2019. Chandrayaan-2 was unable to soft land on the moon’s surface as planned.
- The Chandrayaan-3 mission includes a lunar lander and rover to explore the south pole of the moon. It will not have an orbiter component like Chandrayaan-2.
- ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization, planed to launch Chandrayaan-3 in 2022 using India’s heavy-lift GSLV Mk III rocket. But the timeline slipped to July 2023.
- The Chandrayaan-3 rover will have a similar configuration to the Pragyan rover of Chandrayaan-2 but with some additional improvements.
- The primary goal of Chandrayaan-3 is to demonstrate India’s soft-landing and rover operation capabilities on the lunar surface. The rover will conduct experiments and collect data.
- Once landed, the rover will move around the lunar surface for at least 1 lunar day, which is equal to 14 Earth days. It will analyze the abundance of useful elements on the moon.
- If successful, Chandrayaan-3 will make India the fourth nation to soft land a rover on the lunar surface after Russia, the US and China.
What kind of experiments will the rover conduct?
The rover in India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission will likely conduct a variety of science experiments and technology demonstrations on the moon’s surface. Some possible experiments are:
- Elemental abundance analysis: The rover will analyze the abundance of different elements on the lunar surface, especially elements that are of scientific or economic interest like iron, titanium, uranium, silicon, etc. This data will help understand the geological history and evolution of the moon.
- Solar radiation analysis: The rover will carry instruments to study the radiation environment on the lunar surface, especially solar radiation and cosmic rays. This data will be useful for planning human missions to the moon.
- Magnetic field analysis: The rover will analyze the residual magnetic field on the moon’s surface, which can provide clues about the moon’s internal structure and evolution.
- Regolith analysis: The rover will study the composition and properties of lunar soil or regolith, which forms due to centuries of bombardment by meteoroids. This data can help assess the suitability of lunar regolith for construction materials and radiation shielding.
- Imaging the lunar surface: The rover will carry high-resolution cameras to take pictures of the lunar surface, especially looking for new lunar lava flows and ice deposits near the south pole. This data will help scientists learn more about the moon’s geography and geology.
- Technology demonstrations: The rover may also conduct demonstrations of new technologies like 3D printing, laser communication, resource utilization, etc. This will help test such technologies for future lunar and interplanetary missions.
The Chandrayaan-3 rover is expected to conduct various in-situ experiments and studies to analyze both the composition and properties of the lunar surface materials as well as perform demonstrations of new technologies. The data collected will help India’s and the world’s lunar science and human spaceflight programs.
What kind of technology demonstrations will the rover perform?
Here are some potential technology demonstrations the Chandrayaan-3 rover could perform:
- 3D Printing: The rover could demonstrate 3D printing of parts or tools directly on the lunar surface using regolith as raw material. This technology could be useful for building structures for human habitats on the moon.
- Laser Communication: The rover could test laser-based communication with lunar orbiters or Earth stations. Laser communication can provide much higher data rates than traditional radio systems.
- Radiation shielding: The rover could demonstrate the use of lunar regolith to shield against radiation on the surface. Samples of regolith-based shields can be tested for effectiveness.
- Resource utilization: The rover could attempt to extract useful elements from lunar regolith and demonstrate their potential use. For example, extracting oxygen from regolith for use by astronauts.
- Navigation techniques: Autonomous or vision-based navigation techniques could be tested to allow the rover to accurately navigate the lunar surface on its own.
- Long-term operation: The extended mission duration of the rover (14 Earth days) will test the reliability and operation of systems under lunar surface conditions.
- Locomotion studies: The mobility system used by the rover could be designed to test different wheel designs, suspension systems for lunar rovers.
- Lunar night survival: The rover could demonstrate techniques to survive the extremely cold lunar nights, since temperatures can fall to -180 degrees Celsius.
- Miniaturized payloads: The rover can carry small, compact experiments and sensors developed by students or startups to test their capabilities under real conditions.
Chandrayaan-3 offers a chance to demonstrate several new technologies that can potentially benefit future human and robotic missions to the moon and other planetary bodies. The actual demonstrations performed will likely depend on the payloads finally selected for the rover.
How will the rover extract useful elements from lunar regolith?
There are a few potential ways the Chandrayaan-3 rover could extract useful elements from lunar regolith:
- Heating: One method is to heat up the regolith using electricity or other sources of heat. This can volatilize some elements like iron, titanium and silicon that condense and can be collected. However, very high temperatures above 1000 degrees Celsius are required.
- Chemical extraction: Certain chemicals can be used to leach out and extract specific elements from the regolith. For example, acids can be used to dissolve metals like iron. The chemicals will have to be carried to the moon for this.
- Electrochemical processing: By passing an electrical current through lunar regolith in the presence of certain chemicals, some elements can be extracted through electrolysis. This is a technique researchers are actively studying.
- Sintering: Heating the lunar regolith to just below its melting point can cause elements to fuse together, making them easier to separate later. The fused material is called a sinter. The extracted elements can then be 3D printed into useful parts.
- Microbial breakdown: Some researchers have proposed using microbes to break down regolith and extract certain elements. But this would require carrying the microbes to the moon, which presents challenges.
- Electrostatic separation: Since different elements in regolith have different electrical properties, they can potentially be separated using strong electric fields through a process called electrostatic beneficiation. This technique is still in the research stage.
In summary, while the actual process employed will depend on the specific payloads and experiments selected for the Chandrayaan-3 rover, there are a few potential methods that involve heating, leaching with chemicals, electrolysis and electrostatic separation to extract useful elements from lunar regolith for India’s potential technology demonstration.