Last-Minute Tweak In ISRO’s Moon Landing Plan, Lander To Orbit Before Descending On Lunar Surface

Animation of Mars 2020 rover. (NASA/JPL-CalTech)

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has tweaked one of its most ambitious missions at the last minute. The mission, which involves landing a rover on the lunar surface, will face further delays as a result of this tweak. The launch of the mission — named Chandrayaan-2 — was first planned in April and was postponed to October after experts suggested additional tests.

Now, the scientists leading the mission have decided to make the Lander — that was initially going to soft-land directly and unload the Rover — orbit the Moon in an elliptical orbit before descending on the lunar surface.

The move has increased the weight of Chandrayaan-2 from 3,250kg to 3,850kg, forcing the team working on the probe to make some changes. This includes moving to GSLV MK-III instead of the GSLV MK-II, adding a fifth liquid engine to manage the additional load and a transponder which wasn’t required earlier.

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The team, according to the Times Of India, believes that the mission objectives could have been achieved without adding the task of orbiting the moon.

“This means a host of new hardware added. This is one method of achieving the landing, while the earlier one was another. Our job is to follow what the chairman and other seniors decide and develop things that can successfully complete the mission,” the daily quoted a member of the team as saying.

However, the committee which has mandated the changes says the lander is required to orbit so that it can make “assessment of various system performances” before starting its descent on the dusty terrain of the moon.

This will be ISRO’s first time attempt to land a rover on the moon. The rover, costing nearly Rs 800 crore, will land near the yet-unexplored south pole.

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