India, with lunar odyssey planned this year, is among many looking moonward

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Moon will be the focus of multiple missions through 2022 and the following decade. The moon will also be the test-bed for technologies that enable exploration of Mars and the establishment of space colonies.

What are the various missions being planned on the Moon by different countries?

NASA: It has a sequence of missions codenamed Artemis scheduled for the next few years. The first would test a new unmanned rocket and associated systems. The second would put a team of astronauts into orbit around the moon. The third would land a team (including at least one woman) on the moon.

European Space Agency: It is also shortlisting six astronauts for training. The six chosen ones will be trained to live on the International Space Station (ISS) before being laun­c­hed on a lunar mission.

India: It will send Chandrayaan-3 to the moon in late 2022 and the ISRO is also testing and building equipment for the Gaganyaan mission, which would be its first manned mission. 

Russia-China Joint Venture: They are planning to build a permanent lunar habitat as a joint venture. But this won’t happen before 2027 at the very least.

South Korea: It is also targeting the launch of its first lunar mission, the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, from Cape Canaveral (USA).

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency also plans to launch a robotic mission to the moon’s south pole.

Why is the moon a ‘Test-lab’ for Technologies that may allow humans to survive on Mars?

The Moon is Earth’s only natural satellite. The Moon’s distance from Earth is about 240,000 miles (385,000 km). The Moon’s surface is cratered and pitted from comet and asteroid impacts. The moon is airless, with gravity around one-sixth that of Earth. 

In the sunshine, temperatures hit 125 degrees Celsius. At night, they drop to minus 175 degrees Celsius. This is far more variation than on Mars, where temperatures mostly range between 20 degrees Celsius and minus 75 degrees Celsius.

The moon has large deposits of metals. It also contains large quantities of oxygen embedded in various compounds, and isotopes of helium in larger quantities than on Earth. There is also water ice on the moon, and there may even be liquid water under the surface.

Hence, these harsh conditions make it a “test-lab” for technologies that may allow humans to survive on Mars.

Source: This post is based on the article ‘India, with lunar odyssey planned this year, is among many looking moonward’ published in Business Standard on 29th January 2022.

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