Chandrayaan 4 mission: ISRO chief reveals challenges and vision for ambitious lunar venture

In a recent address at the National Space Science Symposium, ISRO Chief S Somanath provided insight into the formidable challenges and exciting developments surrounding India’s next lunar exploration venture, Chandrayaan 4 mission. While the mission to retrieve lunar samples is still pending approval, Somanath shed light on the complexities that make this undertaking particularly demanding.

Expressing the ongoing debate within the scientific community, Somanath remarked, “Many considerations arise, such as whether to replicate previous missions, gather samples, or pioneer a mission distinct from others. This question is still under deliberation.”

Somanath outlined key challenges setting Chandrayaan 4 mission apart from its predecessors:

1. Multifaceted Launch Requirements: Unlike the single-phase launch of Chandrayaan 3, Chandrayaan 4 demands multiple launchers to facilitate return and re-entry to Earth for sample delivery.

2. Critical Docking Capability: The mission necessitates a docking capability, either in Earth’s orbit or the Moon’s, as failure in this aspect could lead to mission failure.

3. Robotic Drilling and Sample Handling: Somanath emphasized the need for robotic capabilities to operate a drill, select samples, and load them securely into compartments. This aims to demonstrate the transfer of samples between modules.

4. Scientific Advancements: Highlighting the mission’s evolution, Somanath emphasised moving beyond remote sensing and in-situ observations to the groundbreaking phase of bringing lunar samples back to Earth for comprehensive laboratory analysis.

The ISRO Chief provided an update on the mission’s status, indicating that scientists are refining a concept for India to collect diverse lunar samples and transport them back to Earth for further study. The intricate architecture, knowledge, and skills of both rocket and satellite experts have been meticulously planned. Somanath stressed the importance of collaborative efforts to ensure the success of the Chandrayaan 4 mission, with a target completion date set for 2027.

Distinguishing Chandrayaan 4 mission from its predecessor, the presentation included launch vehicle options like PSLV and LVM3 and featured five spacecraft modules, namely Re-entry Module (RM), Transfer Module (TM), Ascender Module (AM), Descender Module (DM), and Propulsion Module (PM). This stands in contrast to the Chandrayaan-3 mission, which comprised the lander module, rover, and propulsion module.

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