Rao: Chandrayaan-2 to Obtain Full Coverage of the Moon This Time

ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter

The Times of India has an interesting Q&A interview with U.R. Rao, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Space Sciences that chose the instruments for ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and lander. He explains why the U.S. and Europe have been shut out of this mission and describes the failures by its predecessor, Chandrayaan-1, that require a follow-up mission.

Six of the 11 instruments on the first Chandrayaan-1 orbiter were contributed by U.S. and Europe. However, India is building all the experiments for the successor. Russia is building a landing vehicle that will deposit an ISRO-built rover on the lunar surface.

“As per the present plan we do not have any weight in the orbiter for foreign payloads,” Rao said. “We were keen on giving an opportunity to our scientists. This is why we decided not to invite international participation this time.”

The interviewer has clearly been taking ISRO’s claims seriously about how Chandrayaan-1 achieved 95 percent of its objectives despite experiencing a series of increasingly serious technical problems and failing completely only 10 months into a two-year mission. Rao is more candid.

“Some of the experiments of Chandrayaan-1, moreover, achieved only 50 per cent to 70 per cent of their objectives. Again, due to power limitations, the Terrain Mapping Camera of Chandrayaan-1 could map only 45 per cent of the moon. We are launching Chandrayaan-2 because we need a total coverage of the moon, employ improved and new technology and obtain better quality photo imageries,” he said.

The interviewer also reveals that “many Indian scientists regretted that their achievements were sidelined especially with regard to the discovery of water and NASA took away the credit. Is this a reason why the committee eliminated foreign instruments on board Chandrayaan-2?”

“[Laughs] The instruments were chosen based purely on their scientific merit,” Rao responded.