CHENNAI: After a Swedish instrument onboard Chandrayaan-1 discovered small regions on the moon that can protect robots from solar winds in future landings, a similar payload will be in the Indian spacecraft on its journey to Venus planned for 2025. The instrument from the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF), which will be ready by January 2023, will study the interaction between the atmosphere in Venus and space.

Associate professor and principal investigator Yoshifumi Futaana, IRF said they are developing Venusian Neutral Analyser (VNA) instrument, which will be part of a larger plasma instrument, to study the interface between the atmosphere in Venus and the space which includes the interaction between solar wind or plasma (charged particles) from the Sun and the planet. “With the VNA instrument, we will measure the fast atoms, energetic neutral atoms created in the near-Venus space. VNA is based partially on the SARA instrument which was carried to the Moon by Chandrayaan-1 and more closely on the recent instrument ASAN on the Change’E-4 lunar lander,” he said in an email interview.

SARA onboard Chandrayaan-1 made some discoveries and changed some long-held predictions. It includes the moon being a strong source of hydrogen atoms, which forms when a proton from solar wind bounces off the lunar surface and joins an electron, and that there are mini-magnetospheres on the Moon where there is an increase of magnetic field that are void of solar winds making them safe for robots to land.

While SARA was a first generation instrument, VNA onboard ISRO’s spacecraft to Venus will be the ninth generation instrument. For Sweden, this will be their second trip to Venus. In 2005, IRF’s Aspera-4 was part of Venus Express mission by European Space Agency where it helped researchers confirm that the more the Sun is active, the lower the amount of water contents escape to space from the planet; a finding that was opposite to what scientists predicted earlier. VNA too will investigate escaping of water-related material in the form of fast neutral atoms and researchers believe the results from VNA will be complementary to ongoing studies by Aspera-4.

“The data from Venus can be compared to similar studies of Mars and Earth. The comparisons between the three sibling planets give a comprehensive picture of the solar wind effects on planetary atmospheres. For example Earth, even though it has a strong magnetic field, has a larger loss of atmosphere to space than both Venus and Mars,” said Olle Norberg, former director general of the Swedish National Space Agency.

Cecilia Hertz, Founder and CEO Umbilical Design, which is involved in space technology transfer representing Sweden as part of ESA Space Solutions Network said Sweden is now eager to contribute to India’s future space missions including the first human spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan. She said the two countries have had an MoU since 1986 for collaboration in the area of space.

“India is one of the fastest growing space industries and I admire that India has a clear vision to explore the universe, other planets and to send humans to space,” she said. “Besides the opportunities I see within the fields of space for sustainable development and space start-ups, with my background in Space Architecture, it would be exciting to contribute to India’s first human spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan,” she added.