Modern Australian

India's moon mission should be considered a success, and a lesson in spacefaring

  • Written by Rebecca Allen, Swinburne Space Office Project Coordinator | Manager Swinburne Astronomy Productions, Swinburne University of Technology

Over the weekend, India attempted to make history by becoming just the fourth nation to successfully land a probe on the Moon. It came agonisingly close, but after journeying millions of kilometres, the Vikram lander lost contact in the final few hundred metres and crash-landed on the lunar surface.

But it would be both unfair and plain wrong to label the mission a failure.

Two-month trip

After a postponed launch, India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft began its journey to the Moon on July 22.

Onboard it carried the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover, equipped to search the lunar south pole for water and other valuable resources. Everything seemed to be going according to plan. Chandrayaan-2 completed several orbits around Earth and then the Moon, slowly making its way closer to the lunar surface and taking photographs the whole time.

India's moon mission should be considered a success, and a lesson in spacefaring Trajectory of the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft. Source: Indian Space Research Organisation.

On September 2, the Vikram lander separated and began to make its descent. All communications were normal until the lander was within 2km of its goal.

Then it went silent – a space engineer’s worst nightmare.

India's moon mission should be considered a success, and a lesson in spacefaring Chandrayaan-2 Surveys the lunar surface. Indian Space Research Organisation

Vikram, do you copy?

So far, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) engineers have not been able to reestablish communications with the lander. It’s likely Vikram landed with enough force to damage its communications equipment, as well as other instruments.

But all hope was not lost, as Chandrayaan-2 remained in orbit above the Moon and, with its high-resolution camera, was able to spot the lander. If oriented favourably, Vikram could still manage to power itself up.

ISRO has not admitted defeat and will keep trying to connect to Vikram for the next two weeks. However, the chances of success diminish with time.

While the Chandrayaan-2 mission has not gone as expected, it cannot be called a failure. The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will continue to monitor the Moon for up to seven years and the high-resolution images it takes will be vital to future international efforts to land on the Moon.

Technically a success

The near success of Vikram’s landing should be celebrated. To appreciate just how hard it is, let’s delve into some physics.

Earth is rotating and also hurtling through space at more than 100,000km per hour. The Moon is almost 400,000km away and travelling around 4,000km per hour as it orbits Earth.

To reach the Moon, you first have to escape Earth’s gravity and ensure you’re going at the right speed to orbit Earth a few times before moving far enough to be caught by the Moon. Then you slowly decrease your distance to the lunar surface, inching closer over several orbits until you are low enough to use powered assistance to land.

Read more: India has it right: nations either aim for the Moon or get left behind in the space economy

It took the United States and Russia decades to design, plan and execute missions to the Moon. In fact, the ISRO was founded shortly after the successful Apollo 11 mission.

We should applaud the hard work India has done over the past 50 years to get this far. This sentiment was clear as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi addressed his country, all of whom stood in solidarity with the scientists who spent countless hours in pursuit of their goal.

A global space community

The story of the Indian lander echoes that of the failed Israeli landing attempt earlier this year.

The Beresheet lander was built by private company SpaceIL, which was chasing the coveted Google Lunar XPrize when an engine malfunction caused it to swan dive into the Moon’s surface.

I mention this mission to reiterate just how hard the task is, but also to demonstrate that the old Cold War space superpowers are no longer the only ones in the game. Countries and even private companies across the world are gaining spacefaring capabilities and undertaking incredible missions that will enable humankind to go further than ever before.

In the next five years, more than a dozen missions to the Moon from six different countries, including Japan and Korea, are slated. This doesn’t include NASA’s ambitious Artemis mission that seeks to put the first woman on the Moon.

Read more: Five reasons India, China and other nations plan to travel to the Moon

But as the cliché goes, with great power comes great responsibility.

Now that countries across the world can send things into space, we must have solidarity as a global spacefaring community to consider how our actions up there will affect us on Earth and to ensure long-term success in space ventures.

This is not the last international space mission you will hear about in the news this year.

In coming years, we may even be discussing Australian ventures into space – and maybe even to the Moon itself.

Authors: Rebecca Allen, Swinburne Space Office Project Coordinator | Manager Swinburne Astronomy Productions, Swinburne University of Technology

Read more http://theconversation.com/indias-moon-mission-should-be-considered-a-success-and-a-lesson-in-spacefaring-123171

NEWS

'An insult' – politicians sing the praises of the cashless welfare card, but those forced to use it disagree

The grey cashless debit card cannot be used at any alcohol or gambling outlet, nor used to withdraw cash.www.shutterstock.com“This is a bit controversial, we know that,” deputy prime minister Michael...

As pressure on Iran mounts, there is little room for quiet diplomacy to free detained Australians

Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has offered to help free three detained Australians in Iran, but the attacks on Saudi oil facilities have made the situation vastly more complicated.Stringer/EPAAustralia’s attempts...

Keeping the city cool isn't just about tree cover – it calls for a commons-based climate response

Where’s the shade? Trees are not an immediate or whole answer to keeping cool.Cameron Tonkinwise, Author providedThis story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than...

The Way We Live Now – powerful, troubling photographs of a crowded planet and uncertain future

Cyril Porchet, Swiss born 1984, Untitled 2014 from the series Crowd, inkjet print 139.0 x 169.0 x 3.5 cm.© Cyril PorchetIn 1955, an enormous photographic exhibition, The Family of Man, challenged...

'predatory' climate deniers are a threat to our children

A child jumps from a rock outcrop into a lagoon in the low-lying Pacific island of Tuvalu.AAP/Mick TsikasIn this age of rapidly melting glaciers, terrifying megafires and ever more puissant...

Why it's time for New Zealanders to learn more about their own country's history

New Zealand is one of few places in the world where teaching the country's own history has not been compulsory.from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NDFrom 2022, New Zealand history will be taught...

Suddenly, the world's biggest trade agreement won't allow corporations to sue governments

The 16 nations negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership account for almost half the world's population.Shutterstock/DatawrapperThe Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has been touted as the best hope for keeping world...

why are some twins identical and some not?

Identical twins look the same, are the same sex, share the same birthday and shares the same genes. www.shuttershock.com , CC BYIf you have a question you’d like an expert...

Greens' challenge aptly described by Paddy Manning, but with no solutions in sight

Paddy Manning’s excellent account of the Australian Greens will not be the last word on Australia’s most successful third party, but will doubtless remain important and influential for many years...

what happens when magnetic north and true north align?

Very rarely, depending on where you are in the world, your compass can actually point to true north. https://www.shutterstock.comAt some point in recent weeks, a once-in-a-lifetime event happened for...

Jim Chalmers on the need to change economic course

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers says it’s time to change Australia’s economic course “in a responsible and affordable way which doesn’t jeopardise the surplus”.Chalmers predicts the budget outcome for last financial...

Reality slippages and narcissistic stereotyping

Lucy spends much of her life living through her phone screen – what happens when we are let into this vantage point?Mia Forrest/ABCLucy (Charlotte Nicado) is a pink-haired millennial having...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Best Paradise Islands You Should Visit in AustraliaMost Popular Mexican Destinations for Australian Visitors How to know the universe is guiding you Cancer 101: 6 Dietary Habits Increasing Cancer RiskQuick turnaround in a rental property at Bondi demands frequent rubbish removal4 Basic Decor Principles That Never Go Out Of StyleEvery Day Should Be Mother’s DayGuys, Are You Making These 5 Critical Skincare Mistakes?What To Check For In Supplements And Slimming Aids?Engineered Wood Flooring vs. Laminate Wood Flooring How Panel Beating Can Quickly Repair Your Car’s Hail DamageBenefits of filtered waterCleaning tips for the kitchen Most popular Latin American destinations for AustraliansWhat Is Laser Dentistry?