Tuesday, June 18

A Comprehensive Analysis of the Chandrayaan 2: Why Did Chandrayaan 2 Fail?

Chandrayaan-2

‍Image Source: Wikimedia


As an Indian, I was excited to witness the launch of Chandrayaan 2, India’s second lunar exploration mission, on July 22, 2019. It was an ambitious mission, aimed at making India the fourth country in the world to land on the moon. However, the excitement soon turned into disappointment as the mission failed to land the Vikram lander on the lunar surface. In this article, I will provide a comprehensive analysis of the Chandrayaan 2 mission failure, examining the mission objectives, launch, early stages, the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover, the descent and landing phase, possible causes of the failure, reactions and responses, lessons learned, and future plans.

Introduction to the Chandrayaan 2 Mission

Chandrayaan 2 was the second lunar exploration mission of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), following the successful Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008. The primary objective of the mission was to study the lunar surface, its mineral composition, and the exosphere, using a lander and a rover. The mission also aimed to demonstrate India’s technological capabilities and strengthen its position in the global space race. The mission was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, India, on July 22, 2019, using the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) launcher. The mission consisted of three components: the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter, the Vikram lander, and the Pragyan rover.

Overview of the Mission Objectives

The Chandrayaan 2 mission had three primary objectives: to study the lunar surface, its mineral composition, and the exosphere. The orbiter was equipped with eight scientific instruments, including a high-resolution camera, a spectrometer, a radar, and a laser altimeter, to study the lunar surface, mineral composition, and water ice. The lander, Vikram, was designed to land on a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, near the south pole of the moon. The lander was equipped with three scientific instruments to study the lunar surface and the exosphere. The rover, Pragyan, was designed to move on the lunar surface and conduct in-situ analysis of the lunar soil using two scientific instruments.

Chandrayaan-2

Image source: Pixabay

The Launch and Early Stages of the Mission

The Chandrayaan 2 mission was launched on July 22, 2019, using the GSLV Mk III launcher. The launch was successful, and the orbiter was placed in lunar orbit on August 20, 2019, after a series of complex orbital maneuvers. The orbiter was then maneuvered into its final orbit, about 100 kilometers above the lunar surface, from where it began its scientific observations. The Vikram lander, carrying the Pragyan rover, was separated from the orbiter on September 2, 2019, and began its descent toward the lunar surface.

The Vikram Lander and Pragyan Rover

The Vikram lander was designed to land on a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, near the south pole of the moon. The lander was named after Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space program. The lander was equipped with three scientific instruments: the Lander Camera, Chandra’s Surface Thermo-physical Experiment (ChaSTE), and the Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA). The Lander Camera was designed to take high-resolution images of the lunar surface, while ChaSTE and ILSA were designed to study the thermal and seismic properties of the lunar surface.

The Pragyan rover was carried by the Vikram lander and was designed to move on the lunar surface and conduct in-situ analysis of the lunar soil. The rover was equipped with two scientific instruments: the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS). APXS was designed to analyze the elemental composition of the lunar soil, while LIBS was designed to analyze the mineral composition of the lunar soil.

The Descent and Landing Phase

The descent and landing phase of the Chandrayaan 2 mission was the most critical and challenging part of the mission. The Vikram lander began its descent toward the lunar surface on September 7, 2019, at 1:38 am IST. The descent was planned to take about 15 minutes, during which the lander would perform a series of complex maneuvers to slow down and land safely on the lunar surface. However, at an altitude of about 2.1 kilometers, the lander deviated from its planned trajectory and lost communication with the ground station.

Chandrayaan-2

Image source: Wikipedia

Why Did Chandrayaan 2 Fail?

The Chandrayaan 2 mission failed to land the Vikram lander on the lunar surface, which was the primary objective of the mission. The mission was declared a partial success, as the orbiter and its scientific instruments were functioning as expected, and were providing valuable data about the lunar surface and its environment. However, the failure of the lander and rover was a setback for the Indian space program and raised questions about the technical capabilities and preparedness of the ISRO.

Analysis of the Possible Causes of the Failure

The ISRO constituted a high-level committee to investigate the causes of the Chandrayaan 2 mission failure. The committee identified four possible causes of the failure: the velocity reduction maneuver, the orientation of the lander, the software of the lander, and the thermal management system of the lander. The velocity reduction maneuver was critical for the success of the mission, as it was designed to slow down the lander and enable a soft landing on the lunar surface.

The committee found that the maneuver was not performed as planned, which led to the deviation of the lander from its trajectory and the subsequent loss of communication. The orientation of the lander was also found to be a possible cause of the failure, as the lander deviated from its intended path due to an incorrect orientation. The software of the lander was also identified as a possible cause of the failure, as it may have malfunctioned during the descent and landing phase. The thermal management system of the lander was also found to be a possible cause of the failure, as it may have malfunctioned and caused the lander to deviate from its trajectory.

Reactions and Responses to the Mission Failure

The failure of the Chandrayaan 2 mission was a setback for the Indian space program and was met with disappointment and criticism from the public and the media. However, the ISRO received praise for its transparency and professionalism in handling the mission failure. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, addressed the nation and expressed his support for the ISRO and its scientists. He stated that the mission was not a failure but a learning experience and that India would continue to pursue its space exploration goals.

Chandrayaan-2

Lessons Learned and Future Plans

The Chandrayaan 2 mission failure was a learning experience for the ISRO, and the organization identified several lessons learned from the mission. The ISRO stated that it would improve its communication systems, software, and thermal management systems to prevent similar failures in the future. The ISRO also announced plans for future lunar missions, including the Chandrayaan-3 mission, which would aim to land on the lunar surface and carry out scientific experiments.

Conclusion

The Chandrayaan 2 mission was an ambitious mission, aimed at making India the fourth country in the world to land on the moon. While the mission failed to land the Vikram lander on the lunar surface, the orbiter and its scientific instruments were functioning as expected and were providing valuable data about the lunar surface and its environment. The failure of the lander and rover was a setback for the Indian space program, but the ISRO received praise for its transparency and professionalism in handling the mission failure.

The ISRO identified several lessons learned from the mission and announced plans for future lunar missions, including the Chandrayaan-3 mission. The Chandrayaan 2 mission failure was not a failure but a learning experience, and India remains committed to pursuing its space exploration goals.

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