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Chandrayaan-2: Charting The Eventual Fate Of ISRO's 2nd Moon Orbiter

Written By Nisha Qureshi | Mumbai | Published:


  • Professor Mayank Vahia spoke to Republic World about Chandrayaan-2
  • He said that it wasn't possible to say at this point whether Chandrayaan-2's orbit would decay and it would crash into the Moon in the immediate future
  • He pointed out how Chandrayaan-1 was still in orbit around the Moon

The Chandrayaan-2's Vikram lander completed its second orbit maneuver successfully on Wednesday, with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) highlighting how each one of these was bringing it closer and closer to the Moon. According to the agency, the nine-second de-orbiting was completed at 3:42 using the onboard propulsion system. With this maneuver, the required orbit for the Vikram Lander to commence its descent towards the surface of the Moon has been achieved the agency said. 

Chandrayaan 2 is India's second lunar exploration developed by the ISRO. The mission was launched on July 22, 2019, from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The mission was launched by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III), though once it was put into orbit, it was up to the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and gravity to take it all the way.

Republic World spoke to Professor Mayank Vahia, formerly at the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the TIFR, and current Dean of Mathematical Studies at NMIMS, who shed light on Chandrayaan-2 and what may be its eventual fate.

Will the change of the orbit from an ellipse to a circle results in the orbit decaying?

Decaying is a gradual decrease in the distance between two orbiting bodies. The bodies could be a planet and its satellite. Professor Mayank Vahia explained that Chandrayaan-2 had initially been captured by the Moon's gravitational pull in a highly elliptical orbit, however, this was then lowered and made more circular in order to eventually land on the Moon. 

READ: Chandrayaan-2: Ex-ISRO head explains why Moon landing will be historic

Chandrayaan 2 moves in an elliptical orbit around the Moon

The Professor also further elaborated, while orbiting, the Vikram Lander will move in such a way that it revolves in an elliptical way around the Moon. This is done so that the orbiter can gradually be bought down. He also explained that ISRO was aiming for a soft-landing on the Moon and the technicalities involved while achieiving this feat. He said that a fast landing could easily result in a crash because the Moon's gravity is strong.

READ: Former NASA Astronaut: World will be watching the Chandrayaan2 Landing

Vikram Lander separated from the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter

Vikram Lander successfully separated from Chandrayaan-2 orbiter on September 2, 2019. Both Chandrayaan-2 and Vikram Landing now have different orbits. This was done because of the Moon's difficult topography and strong gravity. The Lander is orbiting at a distance of 100km to get clearer pictures and be safe from the Moon's gravitational force.

Chandrayaan-2 completes second Lunar de-orbiting, inches even closer

What will be the eventual fate of Chandraayan-2?

Professor Mayank Vahia said that the falling of Chandrayaan-2 could take hundreds of years. It will keep orbiting the Moon. He also highlighted how NASA had launched a mission to track Chandraayan-1 which was launched in 2008. They found Chandrayan-1 still orbiting the Moon.

The primary objectives of Chandrayaan-2 are to demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface. Its scientific goals include studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice. The orbiter will also map the lunar surface and help to prepare 3D maps of it. The onboard radar will also map the lunar surface while studying the water ice in the south polar region.

READ: ISRO future missions: Aditya L-1 to Sun,Gaganyaan space station