Pragyan rover will help identify elements present near landing site on the Moon's surface

Abigail Banerji

Chandrayaan 2, India's second mission to the Moon, is set to take off on 15 July 2019 at 2.51 am IST. The mission will lift off from ISRO's island launchpad in SHAR, Sriharikota, Dr Sivan confirmed at a press briefing in Bengaluru.

The three main modules of this mission include the Vikram lander, the Pragyan rover and an orbiter. Pragyan, which means 'wisdom' in Sanskrit is a rover and the third component of the Chandrayaan 2 mission. It is a robotic vehicle that will traverse the lunar surface on six wheels that are painted in the colours of the tiranga. It is expected to travel at a speed of one centimetre per second and will hence travel a total distance of half a kilometre.

The orbiter and the lander are stacked together to fit into the GSLV Mk-III and the rover is tucked into the lander. When the lander makes a soft landing on the Moon, the rover will roll out and start its exploration. The Chandrayaan-2 mission will have the distinction of being the first mission when ISRO would have sent a lander and rover on the lunar surface.

The south pole of the Moon also contains ancient rocks and craters that can offer clues about the history of the Moon. There are also fossil records that could throw some light on the early solar system. Data on and around the South side of the pole will be collected and sent to the Vikram lander which will then be beamed to the orbiter. The orbiter will send it to ground control.

One of the instruments on Pragyan is a Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS). Coming from the Laboratory for Electro Optic Systems (LEOS) in Bengaluru, LIBS' main objective is to identify the elements that are present near the landing site. To do this, laser pulses are fired at various locations and the radiation from the decayed plasma is analysed.

The second instrument is the Alpha Particle Induced X-ray Spectroscope (APIXS) from the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad. Its primary objective is to look at the composition of the elements near the landing site.

The surface of the Moon will be bombarded with alpha particles and it will help in detecting and identifying the major rock-forming elements such as sodium, magnesium, aluminium, silica, calcium, titanium, iron and some trace elements such as strontium, yttrium and zirconium.

The rover is powered by solar energy and will spend a total of 14 Earth days carrying out its scientific experiments.

Also See: How does ISRO’s GSLV Mk-III fare against some of the world's most powerful rockets?

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Chandrayaan 2 Vikram Lander: the vessel carrying the first rover from India to the Moon

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