India hopes to gain by exploring the moon and delving into the depths of the ocean | Sunday Observer

India hopes to gain by exploring the moon and delving into the depths of the ocean

20 August, 2023

As August 23 approaches, 1.4 billion Indians are waiting with bated breath for their moon craft Chandrayaan 3 to make a soft landing on the southern side of the moon and send back data on the composition of its surface.

Simultaneously, under a project christened Samudrayaan, India is working on a project to put a manned submersible called “Matsya 6000” 500 meters below the sea in February-March 2024 and 6000 meters below in the last quarter of 2025.

If successful, these ambitious projects will put India in the top rung of countries in global space and ocean technology.

Many wonder why a poverty-stricken India is indulging in such expensive ventures. The answer, as stated by its leaders from Jawaharlal Nehru to Narendra Modi,is that scientific and technological capabilities have to be enhanced not only for their own sake but to use them to develop the economy and lift millions out of poverty.

Science and technology have contributed to India’s economic development. If India is self-sufficient infood today, is a pharmaceutical factory of the world, and is an acclaimed supplier of advanced technical and managerial personnel, it is because generations of its leaders have stuck to the nationalcommitment to promote science and technology.

Since its space program was kicked off in 1963, India has been using imagery from its satellites to assess the crop area, crop condition and crop yield to ensure national food security. Satellite data are used for drought assessment and to assess areas for growing particular crops.They are also used forpredicting where and when storms will hit land so that people in the storm’s path can be taken to safety.In 1999, when a massive storm hit India’s East Coast, more than 10,000 people were killed. But recently, when apowerful storm hit the same area, only 21 died and one million were saved, thanks to a prior warning given by satellites.

India’s space program conducted by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) began in a small way. But today it is a giant program, with heavy-duty launch vehicles putting multiple satellites into space for international clients. India has a good future in this field as it providesa satellite launching service at a lower cost. Chandrayaan3 cost only INR 6.1 billion (US$ 75 million) while the Bollywood blockbuster “Adipurush” cost INR 7 billion!

India’s current space market is worth US$8 billion. Business Today, says that India’s space economy could touch US$40 billion by 2040.

Much of the work which goes into a satellite and its launch in India is done in small units. “India’s vendor ecosystem is staggering in size. Decades of doing business with ISRO created about 400 private companies in clusters around Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and elsewhere, each devoted to building special screws, sealants and other products fit for space,” says New York Times.

Chandrayaan 3

Chandrayaan(Moon Craft) 3 has been taking significant strides since its launch. On August 1, a rocket weighing 640 tonnes put a 3,000kg satellite into a translunar orbit. It is now getting into lower orbits around the moon so as to make a soft touchdown on August 23 or 24. Its speedis to come down from 6,000 km per hour to zero finally.

The mission will explore the moon’s South Pole, which is largely unexplored. The Russians are expecting their Luna 25 to land between August 21 and 23. Chandrayaan 3’s missionis to collect data and conduct scientific experiments to learn more about the moon’s composition.The lander and rover are expected to operate for up to 14 “Earth Days”.

According to what is known so far is that the average composition of the lunar surface by weight is roughly 43% oxygen, 20 percent silicon, 19 percent magnesium, 10 percent iron, 3 percent calcium, 3 percent aluminum, 0.42 percent chromium, 0.18 percent titanium and 0.12 percent manganese.

Orbiting spacecraft have found traces of water on the lunar surface that may have originated from deep underground. Ongoing observations from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have shown that water is more abundant on slopes facing the lunar south pole, although scientists do caution that the water quantity is comparable to an extremely dry desert. A 2017 study suggested the moon’s interior could be abundant in water, says.

Robotic Spacecraft

Unlike Russia, which has already managed to land robotic spacecraft on the Moon, India is coming out of the failure of Vikram, a lander that was travelling on board the orbiter Chandrayaan-2 in 2019 and failed to land successfully.

But authorities at the ISRO say they have learned from their mistakes and hope that Chandrayaan 3 will land successfully at a speed similar to that of a person walking!

Samudrayaan Mission

The second notable mission is the bid by the Chennai-based National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) to send an indigenously manufactured and manned submersible called “Matsya 6,000” to a depth of 6,000 meters. It will carry three persons. It is part of the Samudrayaan (Ocean Craft) mission. Samudrayaan is part of a five-year Rs. 4,077 crore(US$ 492 million) Deep Ocean project.

In February - March 2024 Matsya 6,000 will be placed 500 meters below the surface. The deep sea trials at 6,000 metres will start from the last quarter of 2025. Matsya 6,000, will explore deep ocean mineral resources such as nickel, manganese, cobalt, and rare earths.

The Sanudrayaanmission will propel India to an elite club of nations comprising the US, Russia, Japan, France, and China that are developing manned vehicles to carry out deep sea activities.

Safety Measures

Amid concerns over deep-sea explorations following the Titan submersible disaster on June 18 this year (in which five high-profile persons died on their way to explore the wreck of the Titanic)the Director of NIOT Dr. G.A.Ramadass said that NIOT had revisited the specifications of the Matsya 6000 module.

“We have already addressed issues in basic design, material selection, certification and testing. There is very little chance of any disaster,” Ramadasstold ABP Live.

“Further, Matsya 6,000 is being certified by the Norwegian certification agency, DNV (Det Norske Veritas), which has the experience of certifying submersibles placed up to 10,000 metre below the sea,”he added.

“The hull or the sphere is made of titanium alloy. Structurally, it is the best material,” he said.The hull is the most important component of the submersible since it will face the maximum weight of water at 6,000 metres. It has been tested 1.2 times beyond the intended depth.

“The submersible will take four hours to go down to 6,000 meters and four hours to come back and four hours for undersea operations,” Ramadass said. Oceansmake up 70% of the world’s surface. But the Deep Oceanis 95% undiscovered. Submersibles like “Matsya 6000” will play a big role in economic development as it aids tasks such as high-resolution bathymetry (measuring depth), biodiversity assessment, geoscientific observation, and search and salvage operations.

A paper published in June 2023 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that the Indian Ocean mineral resource field covers 300,000 and has 1.4 billion tons of nodules valued at over US$ 8 trillion.

India is entitled to get a share of that cake. The share allocated to India by an international agreement for exploitation has 380 million metric tonnes of minerals.

Security Dimension

The increasing presence of rival powers in the Indian Ocean is a major reason for India’s interest in deep-sea exploration.Survey ships and underwater drones of India’s rivals have been operating in the Persian Gulf, the Southwest Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, worrying India’s strategic planners.

To operate in waters allocated to it, India has to know what is available in the deep ocean. Hence the Samudrayaan mission.