Chandrayaan-3: Not just sons, Tamil Nadu’s contributed soil too to the lunar mission

Since 2012, Namakkal in Tamil Nadu, has been supplying soil — similar to that of the Moon — to ISRO for testing for the Chandrayaan Mission capability.


Published Aug 24, 2023 | 12:57 PMUpdatedAug 24, 2023 | 12:57 PM

Chandrayaan 3 landing site

By Vijay Karthik

It is not only Tamil Nadu’s sons of the soil — former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Chandrayaan-2 Mission Director Mayilsamy Annadurai, and Chandrayaan-3 Project Director Veeramuthuvel P — who have contributed to ISRO missions, but the state’s soil itself was used in the mission.

Since 2012, Namakkal, which is about 400 km from the state capital Chennai, has supplied soil to ISRO for testing for the Chandrayaan Mission capability, as the earth in that district is similar to that of the lunar surface.

This has enabled ISRO to test and refine the ability of the lander module to soft-land on the lunar surface since the properties of the Namakkal soil are similar.

So, when Chandrayaan-3’s Lander Module achieved its objective of successfully soft landing on the Moon, it gave Tamil Nadu an extra reason to cheer.

Also Read: ISRO chief credits Chandrayaan-3 success to ‘incremental progress’

Soil similar to the lunar surface

This is the third time that Tamil Nadu has supplied soil to the Bengaluru-headquartered space agency for performing the tests for its ambitious Moon missions.

According to the Director of the Geology Department of Periyar University, Professor S Anbazhagan, the soil was available in abundance in the Namakkal area, enabling them to rise to the occasion when the need arose for ISRO.

“We have been engaged in conducting research in Geology. Tamil Nadu has the kind of soil that is present on the lunar surface, particularly that which is very similar to the soil present at the southern pole (of the Moon). The lunar surface has “Anorthosite” (a type of intrusive igneous rock) type of soil,” he said.

“We have been sending the soil to ISRO soon after it announced the Moon exploration programme,” he told PTI in a brief interaction.

The Chandrayaan-3 Mission soft-landed the spacecraft on the unexplored southern pole of the Moon — the first country to reach the unchartered region. India is also the fourth country to land on the Moon after the United States, erstwhile Soviet Union, and China.

Also read: Chandrayaan-3 Lander Module makes soft landing on Moon

Supplying soil since 2012

Elaborating on how it all began, Anbazhagan said that following the success of the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008, scientists were gearing up for the Chandrayaan-2 mission, which aimed at demonstrating the capability to soft-land on the surface of the Moon. In comparison, Chandrayaan-1’s mission was to orbit the Moon and not land on its surface.

The Chandrayaan-2 planned to release a rover onto the lunar surface, undertaking tests in the process, he said.

“About 50 tonnes of soil were sent to ISRO,” Anbazhagan, who specialises in remote sensing and groundwater exploration at the university in Salem, said.

After undertaking various tests, scientists at ISRO confirmed that the soil available in the Namakkal area matched that of the lunar surface, he added.

To a query, Anbhazhagan said the soil was available in abundance in places like Sithampoondi and Kunnamalai villages surrounding Namakkal, and also in some areas in Andhra Pradesh and northern parts of the country.

“We have been sending the soil to ISRO as per their requirement. They (ISRO scientists) have been performing tests on the soil supplied by us,” he said, adding, “Even if a Chandrayaan-4 mission comes up, we are geared to supply the soil for it.”

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