In an exclusive interview with Republic TV ahead of the landing of ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2, Prof. Mayank Vahia, Dean, School of Mathematical Sciences, NMIMS, and Formerly at Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at TIFR spoke about the purpose of the Pragyan Rover in the Chandrayaan-2 mission. The Rover will be deployed from the Vikram Lander after its soft landing on the surface of the Moon. The Pragyan Rover is an AI-powered vehicle is a 6-wheeled robotic vehicle that can travel up to half a kilometer and leverages solar energy for its functioning. It can only communicate with the Vikram Lander.
Prof Mayank Vahia explained the role of the Pragyan Rover in the mission of Chandrayaan-2. "The Pragyan Rover is a 6-wheeled robotic cart that has no central axle and works on freewheeling. The rover is entirely solar-powered and battery-powered and consists of laser finders and small instruments to study the surface of the Moon. It will be landing in one of the most water-rich areas of the Moon over the southern polar region," he said.
Prof Vahia also added, "The main purpose of the Rover is to look for water on the surface of the Moon, initially. If humans ever want to live on Moon they will have to live in this particular region. Unlike other rovers instead of just driving around and studying bits of information, Pragyan is designed to look for potential habitability in that region and what else is available on the surface apart from the water. Normally rovers run for few years and months but Pragyan Rover is completely dedicated for 14 days on the surface for this research. Pragyan is landed in such a way that it won't receive much sunlight but gather extremely high-quality data."
Speaking about the water samples that could be found, given Chandrayaan-2 had found evidence of water molecules, Prof Vahia said, "The water is frozen and is in the form of ice, it is a unique sample of water which is pristine because no human has ever drunk or touched this type of water. The Moon is so cold that the moment the water must have fallen it must have frozen that instance. The water present could be billions of years old." He also mentioned that "This water carries the signature of the birth of the solar system, the water that must have existed earlier the condition of the water vapours, the mineral that accompanied the water because this water on the Moon is not Moons own water in the sense it was not born with the Moon. It is certainly transported by meteor impact creators from very far away in the space."
He gave a brief explanation of the history and formation of the Moon. "When the solar system was born, the Earth and the Moon region was so hot that no water could have survived. So all the water you see is delivered on the Moon. We suspected that the Moon's geography formed very soon after it was born because we can see that the boiling phase of the hot Moon was not very long and the mountains were formed quickly," he said.
He also added that "It is great excitement to see what does the water sample contains. It can be oxygen, nitrogen or any metallic components. The entire southern region is pristine and not touched by sunlight. There are possibilities of other dynamic ancient materials of Moon to be discovered. Moon is said to be born when an object as large as Mars hit the Earth and created the Moon. This speculation comes from the similarity between the findings on Mars. Whereas at the equator, we get materials hit by sunlight and sent by the sun but at the poles, there are many undiscovered materials to be found."
The Vikram lander is scheduled to make its soft-landing on the Moon's surface at 1:50 am on Saturday.