The Indian Wire » Science » ISRO’s quest to conduct experiments on the moon: Chandrayaan 2

ISRO’s quest to conduct experiments on the moon: Chandrayaan 2

Chandrayaan1's path to the moon

ISRO has scheduled to launch chandrayaan 2 in the month of October and there is a lot of buzz going on and about the extraction of Helium 3 from the moon. The statement itself is not true and neither is it feasible with the current technology available.

Helium 3 is an isotope(an element with the same number of neutrons and a different number of protons) which contains two protons(positively charged particle) and one neutron(neutral particle) on the nucleus of the atom.

Now, what is it that makes this element so special? Firstly it is non-radioactive just like the other isotope of helium found on earth. Secondly, it is hypothesized to be found abundantly on the moon which is deposited by solar winds and thirdly it can be used as a clean nuclear fuel(Environmental friendly).

But helium 3 cannot be used as a fissionable(where heavier elements are broken into smaller fragments with the release in enormous amount of energy) material but as a fusion fuel (where energy is released when two lighter nuclei fuse together). But fusion technology is not yet available and is decades away as the temperature required for the fusion process would be enormous and maintaining stability at this high temperature is also a priority. And that’s not the entire dilemma because even if we do manage to harness the technology of nuclear fusion, the technology required for the extraction and transportation of the elements will be a greater challenge.

Chandrayaan 2 will be put on a geosynchronous launch vehicle and the orbiter will orbit the moon at an altitude of 62 miles. It will carry five instruments of which three are new and two are improved versions from those used in the previous launch.

The rover operates with solar panel and will be performing chemical analysis on-site and relaying the message back to earth. For these purposes, the satellite will have a 3D vision camera and motion sensors for it to navigate independently.

There are various other instruments that will be sent to the moon to measure the electron density of the atmosphere, the moisture content,  the thermal properties, geology, mineralogy and lunar earthquakes.

Maybe in a few decades or so we may be able to use fusion technology but for all we know now, there will be no mining of helium 3 as such on the moon this time. The probe is sent for a detailed study of the lunar atmosphere and its surface and its possible future prospects.

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