In the late 1960s, the space race was fought between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Amid commotion between the launches from both the nations, it was the Americans who delivered a big blow by landing its two astronauts on the lunar surface through Apollo 11 mission.
Now, half a century later, a day before the historic splash down of Apollo 11, the Indian Space Research Organization is set to launch its most ambitious project till yet. Chandrayaan 2 will leave the orbit of the Earth and begin its journey of 3.84 lakh kilometers towards the Moon on July 22. This is going to be India’s first unmanned mission to any celestial body.
Chandrayaan 2 and Apollo 11 have a lot of similarities, besides the obvious differences. Chandrayaan 2 comprises of an orbiter which will orbit around the Moon; a lander which will separate from the orbiter and touch down the lunar surface and rover which would be carried by the lander to the lunar surface and upon reaching the surface, it’ll move out the spacecraft to explore the lunar surface.
The ‘Vikram’ which is the lander of Chandrayaan 2 is equivalent to ‘Eagle’ of Apollo 11 which landed at the Sea of Tranquility with Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin on board. Remember the Neil Armstrong’s famous words… “Hello, Houston…Hello Houston…The Eagle has landed!” We would be having a robotic rover ‘Pragyan’ instead of the American astronauts which will be exploring the surface of the Moon. There was also a third astronaut Michael Collins who remained in the lunar orbit circling around the Moon in the orbiter ‘Columbia’, which in our case will be a unmanned orbiter that will be orbiting around the Moon carrying out the experiments and studies of the surface.
These were the similarities, now let’s come to the differences. The unmanned Chandrayaan 2, unlike the Apollo 11, would not be coming back to the Earth rather it would ‘die’ on the surface of the Moon itself. Even the orbiter will crash into the lunar surface after orbiting the Moon for about a year.
While our first manned mission to the Moon is still years away, this mission will provide a significant thrust to the space exploration program of India as this is only the second mission which would be landing near the South pole of the Moon. On January 3, 2019, China’s Chang’e 4 was the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the Moon. The main purpose of this spacecraft is to find the traces of water and minerals on this side of the Moon.