Exploring the Moon’s South Pole is an exciting and challenging mission that India’s space agency, ISRO, wants to undertake with Chandrayaan-3
Landing on the Moon’s South Pole is not an easy task. In the past, most spacecraft have landed near the equator, which is safer and easier because of its flat and smooth surface. But ISRO wants to take on the challenge of exploring the Moon’s South Pole despite its difficulties.
Firstly, scientists believe that the South Pole of the Moon has something very valuable hidden there: water! Yes, you heard it right, water on the Moon! There are these dark, shadowy spots called craters that never see sunlight, and scientists think they’re filled with frozen water.
Another reason is the scientific discoveries that can be made there. The extreme environment and the presence of permanently shadowed regions where craters have been untouched by sunlight for billions of years offer an undisturbed record of the Moon’s history and the early Solar System. By examining the lunar south pole, scientists can obtain insight into the materials and conditions that existed during the Earth-Moon system’s formation. It’s like peering into the past! Scientists believe that the Moon came into existence when a large object similar to Mars collided with the early Earth, causing debris to be ejected and eventually form the Moon.
ISRO’s exploration of the Moon’s South Pole also opens doors for global collaborations. They have already worked with NASA to confirm the presence of water on the Moon through the Chandrayaan-1 mission. Now, ISRO is partnering with Japan for the LUPEX mission, which aims to send a lander and rover to the Moon’s South Pole around 2024. Collaborations like these enhance our collective knowledge and capabilities in space exploration.
Another reason why the Moon’s South Pole is so special is its lighting conditions. Because of the way the Moon is tilted, some parts of the South Pole are in constant darkness, while others get only a little bit of sunlight. This affects how things like water ice and chemicals are distributed on the surface. Understanding these lighting conditions will help scientists figure out the best places to land on the Moon in the future.
The mission holds incredible potential for the future lunar economy. Imagine billions of dollars in profit! The Artemis program alone generated $2.2 billion in 2021 and created thousands of jobs. The possibilities are out of this world! Under NASA’s Artemis program, they’re planning to send astronauts to the lunar surface by 2025, while China aims for their own manned mission by 2030.
According to the PwC report, we could see 1,000 astronauts living on the Moon by 2040, starting with 40 astronauts in 2030. But it all depends on cost-effective rockets that can send them safely to the lunar surface.
But here’s the challenge: a soft landing on the Moon, where the spacecraft remains functional post-landing. Landers descend to the lunar surface, while rovers explore different areas. In 2019, during the Chandrayaan-2 mission, the lander unfortunately crashed.
If Chandrayaan-3 is successful, the lander and rover will collect invaluable data for scientific research on the lunar surface for 14 Earth days (a single day on the moon). Chandrayaan-3 will become the world’s first mission to soft-land near the lunar south pole. A successful soft landing will make India the 4th country, after US, Russia, and China, to achieve the feat.