Do you agree that sci-fi movies made in Hollywood are an expensive deal? But did you know the real deal is much cheaper? And when it comes to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), some of the most critical missions are cheaper than the VFX-laden Hollywood blockbusters.
One of the most popular sci-fi Hollywood movies, Interstellar, cost a whopping Rs 1,062 crore to make. In contrast, India’s upcoming Chandrayaan-2 mission is reportedly estimated to cost Rs 800 crore. In fact, ISRO’s previous Mars mission cost Rs 470 crore, whereas, another blockbuster movie, Gravity, cost Rs 644 crore and was released in the same year as the mission.
In an exclusive interview with the ToI, ISRO chairman Dr K Sivan explained what makes the space agency’s interplanetary missions so much cost-effective. He is quoted as saying,”Simplifying the system, miniaturizing the complex big system, strict quality control and maximizing output from a product make our space missions frugal and cost-effective. We keep a strict vigil on each and every stage of development of a spacecraft or a rocket and, therefore, we are able to avoid wastage of products, which helps us minimize the mission cost.”
ISRO will aim to launch the mission sometime in April. The mission will involve a soft-landing on the moon’s surface, and rover walk. The exact date and time of the launch depends on a number of factors such as moon’s relative position with respect to the Earth.
Dr Sivan further said,”We are trying for a dawn-to-dusk landing and rover walk on the lunar’s mission for maximum utilization of the scientific mission. If we are not able to land in April due to various factors, then the mission will be launched in November. If we launch between April and November we won’t get the perfect dawn-to-dusk landing and experiment time due to moon eclipses, therefore, we will avoid the launch in between. The perfect timing for the launch comes only once in a month.”
According to the report, ISRO is planning to land the rover near the south pole, unlike NASA’s Apollo mission or Russian Luna missions where the rover landed on the equatorial region of the moon. The reason, as Dr Sivan explained, is that by landing near the south pole, it will be possible to analyse the big rocks that are billions of years old. This will help researchers explore the moon better.
After the soft-landing, the rover will get detached from the lander, and move 100-200 metre to analyze the moon’s surface. It will remain active for 14 Earth days, which translates into one lunar day, and send back data and images to the Earth via the orbiter within 15 minutes.
What makes Chandrayaan-2 mission even more cost-effective is that it is completely indigenous now. Earlier Russia promised ISRO to provide a rover for the mission. However, as Dr Sivan said, ISRO scientists wanted their own rover. Triggered by Russia’s failed attempt at landing during the Phobos-Grunt mission, ISRO then decided to develop its own rover and lander.
To prepare for the mission, ISRO is also conducting simulation tests on the different component at its centres in Bengaluru, Mahendragiri and Chitradurga, Karnataka. For a smooth landing, artificial ‘lunar craters’ have also been created as part of the ‘hazard avoidance and landing’ tests, the report adds.