Chandrayaan is India's first moon lander, coming 50 years after Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969

Ten years ago on 22 October, 2008, Indian Space Research Organisation launched Chandrayaan-1, India's first planetary probe to the Moon. A few weeks from now, the mission's successor" Chandrayaan-2" is scheduled to follow suit after many unforeseen delays in its launch date, a report in the Times of India said.

Chandrayaan-1 was India's first ever planetary mission to the moon, and carried a range of experiments, both Indian and international, to the lunar orbit. The probe collected a lot of significant data over its mission to orbit and study the moon's chemistry, geology and mineral make-up for close to a year.

Chandrayaan-1's Findings

Among its many findings were direct evidence of water on the moon. Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper on Chandrayaan-1 was crucial to findings direct evidence that the moon does, in fact, have water on its surface. These deposits were found as water-ice concentrated near the polar regions of the moon.

A second instrument on Chandrayaan-1, the Mini-Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR), also found water-ice deposits in craters on the far side of the moon. This has been a blindspot for past lunar missions as well as observations from Earth since it isnt well-studied, but also inaccessible to satellite signals for communication with mission controllers on Earth.

A third instrument, the Indian Moon Impact Probe (MIP) of Chandrayaan-1 picked up on signatures of water in the lunar exosphere.

Finally, the discovery that made headlines world-over was the first "direct evidence" of water in the moon's atmosphere just above the Moon's surface, collected by the Chandra's Altitudinal Composition (CHACE) instrument as the probe descended on the moon.

These discoveries were largely made because the probe's instruments were designed to detect even traces of water €" in the form of hydroxyl ions (OH) as opposed to the more familiar form of the water molecule (H20). This indicated that solar radiation quickly pulverizes water into hydrogen ions, which escape the atmosphere, and hydroxyl ions, which linger as traces of water. .

The Chandrayaan-2 Mission

Following in Chandrayaan-1's heels is the Rs 800-crore "Chandrayaan-2" unmanned mission, scheduled for a 3 January, 2019 launch.

This comes nearly ten years after ISRO's first mission to the moon, but carries a rover and a lander unlike Chandrayaan-1 did. The 3,890-kg Chandrayaan-2 probe will be launched onboard the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-3. The Lander will soft-land on the lunar surface and unload the Rover to study and take measurements on the moon as the orbiter continues to circle it from 100 km above the surface.

The lander and rover on Chandrayaan-2 will touchdown at an site 600 kilometers from the lunar South pole. If successful, this would be the first time any moon mission landed so far from the equator, a report in Science said.

The rover " weighing just 25 kilograms and roughly the size of a briefcase €" will carry two instruments that will study the lunar surface's elemental composition" a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) and an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

The mission will also provide a map of the moon's topology, which could add many new findings to existing data due to its unique choice of landing site.

The Hopes And Challenges Riding Along The Mission

"Chandrayaan-2 is planned for a window from 3 January to 16 February 2019, that we are targeting. It can happen anytime during that window. But we are aiming for the beginning of the window, 3 January," said Sivan while addressing the media, according to various reports.

When ISRO was questioned about the certifying agency for the rocket that would carry Indian astronauts, Sivan said that ISRO would be the certifying agency.

"You can say that this is Chandrayaan-3 as the project has been reconfigured completely," Sivan told TOI. "If we went with the previous configuration it would have been a disaster. They had not thought of so many issues, that are being corrected now."

Sivan added that the norms for certification will be drawn with the help of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation; and that ISRO would like to get the expertise of other countries in this regard.

With all the plans on Chandrayaan-2's scientific agenda, a successful landing near the south pole in itself would be a remarkable feat for ISRO as well as space exploration worldover.

"One of NASA's main priorities is to go [to the south pole] on a sample return mission," James Greenwood, a cosmochemist at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut said to Science.

"So this could help us also later, down-the-road, as they give us more information as to what's there."