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Chandrayaan-2: Could Helium-3 exploration be one of the objectives?


New Delhi, June 12: ISRO's ambitious and complex Chandrayaan-2 mission will propel India to the group of elite nations that have successfully landed a lunar craft on moon. Previous mission, Chandarayaan-1 did not involve landing on moon, the main objective of that mission was to produce a complete map of moon's chemical characteristics and three-dimensional topography.

Representational Image

Among many of the objectives of Chandrayaan-2, what has time and again cropped up is about Helium-3 (He-3) exploration. Helium-3, many opine, could be the fuel of the future. HE-3 is hardly available on Earth but abundant on the moon. He-3 is considered a clean source of energy, unlike fossile fuels. This isotope of Helium can theoretically meet global energy demands for three to five centuries. There are approximately 1 million metric tons of Helium-3 embedded in the moon, according to a report.

India's official stand on Helium-3 is that exploring it or mining the isotope is "outside the scope of the current Moon mission". Union Minister Jitendra Singh made this clear last year. But many foreign space organisations are still speculating India may use this mission to find out more about He-3.

[Gearing for July launch, Chandrayaan-2 will carry NASA payload too, says ISRO]

Agreed that He-3 is a source of energy that may solve many energy related problems, but as of now we do not have technology to use it. The counter argument is this, should India not be ready when such technology does become available. Agreed that He-3 fusion is untested technology, and a lot of research is needed to effectively utilise it, it may even be decades away, but at present it would do no harm to know where exactly in moon is He-3 available in plenty. In other words, India can think about beginning to map moon for presence of He-3.

[ISRO to launch Chandrayaan 2 between July 9-16, landing expected in September]

Chandrayaan-2 will be equipped with a lander and rover probe which will descend on the surface of the moon from where it will observe the lunar surface and send back data which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil. The lander will carry instruments like a seismometer and a thermal probe, and the rover will carry spectrometers to analyse the lunar soil.

Chandrayaan-2 has three modules namely Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan). Orbiter and Lander modules will be stacked together as an one entity inside the launch vehicle GSLV MK-III.

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