How do you get selected for ISRO

With the successful operation of the Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe, India entered the small circle of space travel nations that have sent their own probes to the moon. The first probe, an orbiter, did not stay active as long as hoped after ten months of operation, because there were problems with the temperature control on board. however, the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2009 was a great success (we reported).

Now India would like to send its second probe to the earth's satellite. Chandrayaan-2 is much more ambitious than its predecessor and is said to consist of an orbiter and a soft landing probe. The start is planned for 2013.

The orbiter and lander are being built in India by the Indian space agency ISRO in Bangalore and together weigh 2650 kilograms at launch. The orbiter accounts for 1400 kilograms and the lander 1250 kilograms. There will be space for five scientific instruments on the orbiter and two on the lander.

Three of the five instruments on the orbiter are new developments, while two are improved devices from the previous Chandrayaan-1 probe. The orbiter's payload is primarily dedicated to the mineralogical-chemical mapping of the lunar surface and its physical shape. With a spectrometer for soft X-rays (CLASS) the content and distribution of important elements in the lunar crust will be investigated. An imaging infrared spectrometer (IIRS) maps the lunar surface and searches for specific minerals, water molecules in the lunar soil and hydroxyl ions embedded in minerals.

With the help of a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), radar waves are to be used to scan the surface of the moon up to a depth of a few dozen meters, in order to search for possible water ice in the underground, among other things. This would make it possible to finally determine whether there are really larger amounts of water ice in the craters of eternal darkness on the two lunar poles.

A neutral mass spectrometer (ChACE-2), a further development of the corresponding instrument on Chandrayaan-1, is intended to examine the extremely thin atmosphere of the moon, the exosphere, which is more like an ultra-high vacuum.

A three-dimensional imaging camera, TMC-2, also an improved version, continues the high-resolution mapping of the moon by Chandrayaan-1.

During the development of the landing probe, India secured the support of Russian researchers and had its device built based on the successful unmanned probes of the Luna series in Russia. These explored the moon in the late 1960s through the mid 1970s. The Russian space agency is contributing the lander as its own contribution.

The landing probe carries a small Indian lunar rover that contains two instruments in addition to a camera: a laser spectroscope that vaporizes minerals on the moon's surface with a laser beam and analyzes the substances released, and an alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer that also examines the composition of the lunar rocks . Such instruments have already been used very successfully on the US Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

However, ISRO reserves the right to place additional instruments on the lander if this is possible within the payload capacity of the landing vehicle. With Chandrayaan-2, India clearly underlines its claim to be at the forefront of spatial research. This can be seen above all in relation to India's arch-rival China, which has also successfully flown to the moon with its Chang'e-1 probe and is planning further probes.

Tilmann Althaus

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