Chandrayaan-3’s homegrown sensors pique NASA’s interest, says K V Sriram

Sriram acknowledged that NASA had technically assisted ISRO in its first two moon missions. However, Chandrayaan-3 was purely an “indigenous effort”, he said.
K V Sriram
K V Sriram

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: US space agency NASA has evinced interest in purchasing the high-end sensors developed indigenously by India for Chandrayaan-3, according to K V Sriram, director of ISRO’s Laboratory for Electro-Optics Systems (LEOS).

A crucial ‘correction’ made by the LEOS-developed Landing Horizontal Velocity Camera (LHVC) just 20 seconds before touchdown ensured that the Vikram lander had a soft landing on the moon’s previously unexplored south pole, Sriram said at a webinar organised by the Raman International Optronics Society in association with the University of Kerala.

“Chandrayaan-3 calls for a different dimension in terms of development of all sub-systems including sensors, which is unique to ISRO. Now, NASA has come forward saying they are interested in some of the sensors we have used,” Sriram said. The US space agency was keen to know more about the technology used and also evinced interest in purchasing them, he said.

“They (NASA) are very interested in further collaborations. Artemis is one of NASA’s future missions which will take humans to space. They want India to participate in such missions. This is the level of global cooperation that such lunar missions initiate,” he said. 

Sriram acknowledged that NASA had technically assisted ISRO in its first two moon missions. However, Chandrayaan-3 was purely an “indigenous effort”, he said. “Absolutely no support from anybody, except some ground stations in other countries to receive the data,” he said.

Sriram also spoke about the key components developed by LEOS that played a crucial role in Chadrayaan-3. One such was the LHVC which was initially developed by LEOS for Chandrayaan-2 and was also adopted for the Chandrayaan-3 mission. Placed on board the Vikram lander, LHVC not only clicked the first images of the moon’s south pole surface but also proved a life-saver for the entire mission.  

‘Chances of reviving Vikram lander, rover grim’

“When less than 20 seconds were available, it gave a correction on velocity, which really made the touchdown a very soft landing. If the correction was not done, it would have accumulated an error that would have got a kind of a big jolt on the landing phase,”

Sriram said. It was at this very juncture that the previous moon mission had failed. Sriram said there were grim chances of reviving the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover on the moon’s surface given that they have spent around three lunar cycles with huge variations in temperature.

“We need to devise certain protective systems to shield the lander and rover from the extreme weather. These will be taken care of in future missions,” he added. However, the ‘hop-test’ carried out by ISRO in which the lander fired its engines on command, elevated itself and moved a short distance, holds great promise, he said. It has proven that ISRO could make the return of both samples and humans from the moon possible, he said.

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