As part of the second Chadrayan mnission in 2010-11, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning to land a motorized rover on the moon to pick up samples of soil or rocks, perform chemical analysis, and beam data to mother spacecraft. The Chandrayan-II mother-spacecraft will orbit the moon and relay the data to ground stations and carry a landing platform with the rover.
The plan is to launch the platform with the rover after Chandrayan-II reaches its orbit above the moon that will then land on lunar soil—a location to be identified by Chandrayan-I which will carry a moon impact probe (MIP). Built at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, the MIP is 29-kilogram (kg) instrument that will detach from Chandrayan-I and descend 100 odd kilometers and crash land on the moon. The crash data will provide ISRO the information it needs to design the semi-hard but semi-soft landing it plans for the rover so it is not damaged on impact. The MIP is like a hat on top of the main Chandrayan-I module and detaches from the spacecraft, ignites its solid motor and assumes a trajectory towards the moon but will be guided by the ISRO to crash at a particular location. It will carry 3 instruments including a mass spectrometer that will sense the moon’s atmospheric constituents as it descends rapidly for 18 minutes. The on-board altimeter will measure the instantaneous altitude during its descent and a video-imaging system will look at the moon from close proximity so ISRO scientists can decide will land.
The rover itself will weigh 30-100 kgs to be determined with the MIP data and will operate for a month predominantly on solar power. Equipped with a batter backup and capable of going into a low-power mode, ISRO plans to put the rover to sleep at night when there is no sunlight and wake it up when there is. Using this methodology, engineers expect to keep the rover operational for 2-3 months.
ISRO plans to place the 1300 kg Chandrayan-I using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-XL) in the first quarter of 2008 and will carry 11 payload items including five from ISRO and six from countries other than India. An 18 meter dish antenna installed at Byalalu village near Bangalore will track the spacecraft. This is the first time ISRO is launching a vehicle capable of carrying 11 items with international participation and hence the complexity of handling the different instruments are both technically and managerially challenging. The primary objective of the Chandrayan-I is to systematically map the mineral and chemical resources of the moon taking photographs, surveying minerals, studying gravity, and analyzing the chemical nature of the terrain.