by Anna Gombert
India is planning to land on the moon. While this mission will not be India’s first trip to the moon, it will be their first attempt to land on the moon. The mission of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is unique in that the rover will touch down and explore around the moon’s south pole, where as all other rovers have kept to the area around the equator, according to Science Mag.
The name of this mission is Chandrayaan-2, Chandra meaning Moon in Sanskrit and Yaan meaning vehicle in Hindi, according to Newsweek. It is an unmanned mission consisting of an orbiter, lander and a rover, and its main purpose is to study lunar dust.
Lunar dust has held an element of mystery from the very first Apollo mission. According to NASA’s Apollo Chronicles, the dust is extremely clingy and once inside the spacecraft it caused Astronaut Jack Schmitt symptoms of hay fever. It also apparently smells like gunpowder.
The Apollo Chronicles do explain what lunar dust is made of, stating, “Almost half is silicon dioxide glass created by meteoroids hitting the moon. These impacts, which have been going on for billions of years, fuse topsoil into glass and shatter the same into tiny pieces. Moondust is also rich in iron, calcium and magnesium bound up in minerals such as olivine and pyroxene.”
An article in The New Yorker titled “The Mystery of Moon Dust” explains that the tiny grains of moon dust are sharp and jagged since there is no wind or water to smooth them, and therefore they cling to materials such as the suits astronauts wear.
The Chandrayaan-2 is scheduled to launch in March 2018, according to Nature, and if this mission is successful, it will open up the possibilities of Mars and Venus missions as well as an attempted landing on an asteroid says Newsweek.
India’s first mission to the moon was in 2009, sending an orbiter into space that helped to detect that there was water on the moon, reports Newsweek, however, contact was lost in less than a year.