Update : Chandrayaan 2
To test the effectiveness of the landing gear and motor assembly of the soon-to-be-launched Chnadrayaan-2 lunar rover, it was tested on a proto-Lunar Terrain Test Facility (LTTF) at ISRO’s advanced satellite testing unit, ISITE, in Bengaluru.
This was done by modifying a balloon research lab, about 30-40 m high, long and wide.
What was done?
- For any lunar rover, it is important to ensure that its legs and wheels are perfectly functioning on the surface.
- ISRO had a major challenge in equipping the LTTF and making it look and feel like being on the moon was the first challenge.
- For this, ISRO needed lunar soil with almost all its features and texture, lunar temperatures, low gravity and the same amount of sunlight as on the moon.
- For recreating the terrain, ISRO had an option to import simulated lunar soil from the U.S. However, the facility needed about 60-70 tonnes of soil and each kg cost over USD 150 (now even more).
- While some amount of lunar soil was bought, ISRO realized that such an approach was unsustainable and started to look for domestic solutions.
- It was found that a few sites near Salem in Tamil Nadu had a similar anorthosite rock that somewhat matches lunar soil in composition and features.
- A group of academicians, professionals, and transporters worked hard and without charge to provide the ISRO center with several tonnes of the soil.
- While lights were controlled artificially, the rover’s weight was reduced using helium balloons to account for Earth’s high gravity.
Why is this necessary?
ISRO has a successive track of indigenization and improvisation that have allowed it to reduce costs and increase process efficiency. This has increased and improved India’s research standing in front of the world.