The Chandrayaan-3’s descent onto the lunar surface is nothing short of a descent into an icy cold hell. While landing on the moon in any circumstance is not a piece of cake, Chandryaan-3’s attempted soft landing on the Moon’s south pole is all the more challenging.
Many other missions especially from the last decade or so, have failed for this very reason. Because missions like the Chandrayaan-2 and Luna 25 tried to land on the lunar south pole, they had to contend with strange magnetic fields and gravitational forces.
However, it is not just these two things that will be an issue for Chandrayaan-3. The Moon’s topography itself, the very soil upon which the Vikram Lander tries to touch down, is treacherous and brutal, especially around its PLS or Proposed Landing Site.
Scientists and astronauts alike were surprised when they discovered just how prone the Moon is to moonquakes. There are various reasons as to why the moon experiences some severe moonquakes, some of which are more severe than even our deadliest earthquakes.
A study by NASA indicates that some of these moonquakes may be the result of Earth’s gravitational pull, whereas others, may be because of meteorites and other objects crashing onto the lunar surface.
Then, there are the moon’s natural seismic activities, that are caused by the shift of plates and falls. Shallow moonquakes often take place a few miles beneath the lunar surface. After years of investigations, scientists at ESA and NASA finally concluded that these moonquakes are caused by escaping heat from the inside of the moon and the gravitational tug-of-war between the moon and Earth. This especially impacted areas where new fault lines would develop, because of some previous moonquake.
Landing in a moonquake hotspot
The Chandrayaan 3, is supposed to land in an area that is supposed to be a hotspot for moonquakes. The Virkam Landing module is supposed to touch down the middle of a valley between two craters named Manzinus and Boguslawsky. There’s also a third crater called Simpelious right nearby. This cool landing spot is gonna be somewhere around 68 to 70 degrees South and 31 to 33 degrees East coordinates, which will be actually very close to the Moon.
They’re keeping their options open with a backup landing site. This one’s to the west of a massive crater called Moretus, which is about 114 kilometres wide. The backup spot’s exact coordinates are roughly 70.6 degrees South and 6.2 degrees West. It’s in that range of 68 to 70 degrees South latitude and 16 to 18 degrees West longitude.
Saying that Vikram’s PLS or proposed landing site is treacherous would be an understatement. Not only is the surface around the PLS covered in small as well as massive craters, it is an area where several fault lines pass through. Moreover, PLS hasn’t seen sunlight in ages, and nor is it visible from the Earth, or any of its observatories.
Vikram’s PLS, the valley between the craters Manzinus, Boguslawsky and Simpelious is literally what happens to hell if it freezes over. Because there is virtually no sunlight in the area, it literally falls on the dark side of the moon. Because of this, the temperatures in that area are as low as -300 degrees Fahrenheit.
This causes several issues, both mechanically, and otherwise. The extreme cold conditions at the South Pole not only bring communication hurdles but also means that ay extraterrestrial object in this area, asteroids, or meteors that crashed thousands or millions of years ago, would have stayed frozen and unchanged for millions of years.
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