Chandrayaan 3: To test and prepare for successful landing, ISRO to recreate lunar craters in village near Bangalore

A source revealed that the artificial moon craters will be about 10 metres in diameter and will be three metres deep.

The Indian Space Research Organisation is planning on creating replicas of the craters on the moon in a small village called Ullarthi Kavalu, Challakere, located around 215 km from Bengaluru city. The work to re-create these artificial craters will begin later this year, with the agency already having sent out tenders seeking companies that can work on the project.

A source told Times of India, "We’ve already called for tenders and the process of identifying a firm for all the civil works will be complete by month-end or early September. The craters will be created in our Challakere campus."

Craters on the moon. Image credit: NASA

Craters on the moon. Image credit: NASA

The project will cost at least Rs 24.2 lakhs, the source added.

The craters will be about 10 metres in diameter and three metres deep, a second source added.

Why will these specially-built craters come in handy, one might ask. The craters are meant to simulate the moon's surface, and gives the Chandrayaan 3 landing module some room to practice its descent and landing in a simulated, terrestrial setting before attempting the same on the Moon.

Its predecessor, the Chandrayaan 2 lander, lost contact during its unsuccessful landing attempt on 7 September 2019. The next Indian moon lander could learn from the incident, and ISRO doesn't want to leave any stones unturned this time around.

An illustration of Chandrayaan 2's lander Vikram. Image: ISRO

An illustration of Chandrayaan 2's lander Vikram. Image: ISRO

Thorough testing of Chandrayaan 3 lander

The Chandrayaan 3 mission is similar to the second lunar mission and will fully autonomous, as per a Defence News report. It will feature multiple sensors, including a few dedicated to helping the lander scan the area and make a smooth descent to its chosen landing spot. It will also help the lander scan and adjust the velocity needed to land and touchdown, all the while keeping the lander away from boulders and uneven surfaces.

A scientist told TOI that “The lander’s sensors will undergo a crucial test — Lander Sensor Performance Test (LSPT) — which will involve us flying the sensors on an aircraft over the artificial lunar site and see how efficient they are in guiding the lander,” a scientist said.

During this sensor readiness test, an ISRO spacecraft will descend from heights of two kilometres and then seven kilometres over the artificial crater site in Challakere. Its sensors will be tested in the simulation to guide the craft to a safe landing location.

While the LSPT will only see the sensor being flown to Challakere, another scientist said, “The focus on thorough testing is higher than Chandrayaan-2 this time. We are even looking at testing a full-fledged lander at ISITE (ISRO Satellite Integration and Test Establishment) in Bengaluru. As of today, we are not sure how feasible that would be, but the thinking is there.”

Like Chandrayaan 2, the third mission to the moon will feature a lander and rover to land on the South Pole of the moon by 2021.

ISRO will use the fully-functional orbiter successfully placed in lunar orbiter via Chandrayaan 2 since August last year. The orbiter has a mission life of one year, but is supposed to work for the next seven years.

The ISRO chief had said earlier that the cost of the mission including the lander and rover would come to approximately Rs 250 crore. The entire cost of the mission including the launch vehicle and fuel, however, could reach up to Rs 365 crores.

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