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Chandrayaan 3 importance: Future Moon colonies could be Mars mission stops, says astrophysicist

By | Edited by Kunal Gaurav
Aug 23, 2023 12:04 PM IST

Chandrayaan 3 landing news: Moon's faint atmosphere holds mysteries, landing and analysing air key to future lunar colonies and space exploration.

The moon boasts a faint atmosphere. By landing and analysing the air, we can unravel more of the moon's mysteries, says Somak Raychaudhury, an eminent astrophysicist currently serving as Vice-Chancellor at Ashoka University. He adds that a driving force behind these endeavours is the anticipation of establishing lunar colonies for future space exploration. The moon could serve as a crucial waypoint on our journey to Mars and beyond.

Chandrayaan 3 landing: An enthusiast with his body painted in tri-colours reacts as he holds up a model of LVM3 M4 which was used to launch India's third lunar spacecraft.(REUTERS)
Chandrayaan 3 landing: An enthusiast with his body painted in tri-colours reacts as he holds up a model of LVM3 M4 which was used to launch India's third lunar spacecraft.(REUTERS)

Professor Raychaudhury, previously the Director of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, joined us to discuss the importance of the Chandrayaan 3 mission as it prepares for a soft landing. Here's an edited excerpt from the interview.

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What specific outcomes is India aiming for with the Chandrayaan mission?

Although India's space exploration began later than America's moon and planetary missions, ISRO initially concentrated on Earth-related projects such as climate, weather, communication, satellites, and remote sensing. With lunar missions now underway, we aim to showcase our capabilities and global leadership in pushing technological boundaries.

Why is the moon so important to us?

The moon and Earth formed around the same time, approximately 4.5 billion years ago. Although they originated from the same material, their fluid states during formation led them to solidify with distinct structures. Notably, certain features present on Earth's surface also exist deep within the moon, and vice versa. Therefore, studying the moon can provide insights into our own planet's history.

Why are we targeting the moon’s southern pole as Chandrayaan 3's landing site?

Previous missions primarily explored the moon's northern hemisphere, but comparing it to exploring Africa versus Europe underscores the differences.

We have already unequivocally confirmed the presence of water on the moon. This knowledge stems from analyzing the spectrum of light emitted by the moon. One suspicion is that water may be concentrated in the moon's southern hemisphere, where elevated mountains, deep craters, and extensive shaded regions reside, devoid of sunlight and with temperatures as low as -200 degrees.

Why has the lunar exploration programme gained sudden momentum?

Our understanding of the solar system and the moon has expanded significantly since the 1960s and 70s.

Technological progress, including faster data transmission rates and advanced computing, along with miniaturization, has revolutionized space exploration, rendering it more cost-effective. The participation of private entities, including notable figures like Elon Musk, has catalyzed ambitious undertakings.

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While Luna 25, the Russian lunar spacecraft, reached moon orbit in just ten days due to a powerful rocket, Chandrayaan 3's journey spanned over a month. Is there a need to expand beyond the scope of frugal engineering?

I believe India has chosen a more controlled and less risky path to the moon. Learning from the past crash, meticulous orbit design and parameter considerations have been prioritized.

The ongoing Gaganyaan mission for human lunar exploration underscores the paramount importance of safety.

ISRO has devised specific strategies for these missions. The agency has transitioned from being a highly insular organization to actively seeking advice from a broader array of experts.

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