As India readies to celebrate the success of Chandrayaan-3 with Landing Module (LM) set to softland on the lunar surface on Wednesday, Tamil Nadu will have special reasons for cheer. For, not only the sons of the soil, even the soil in the state has contributed to the mission.
Three scientists from Tamil Nadu have helmed each of the crucial Moon missions of ISRO. While Mayilsamy Annadurai, dubbed as the 'Moon Man of India', led the maiden Chandrayaan mission in 2008, M Vanitha led the Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019, and M Veeramuthuvel is heading the current Chandrayaan-3 Mission.
After Chandrayaan-3's lift-off on July 14 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Veeramuthuvel has returned to the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network in Bengaluru to track the rocket. He has stayed away from interacting with the media so far, stating that he will only do so after ensuring that the landing module makes a soft landing on the lunar surface on August 23 at 6.04 pm.
As for the soil, Namakkal, which is about 400 km from the state capital Chennai, has been supplying soil to the ISRO for its moon missions since 2012. Reason: the soil in the district is similar to that of the lunar surface, reported PTI.
The properties of the Namakkal soil have enabled ISRO to use it to test and refine the ability of the lander module to soft-land on the surface of the Moon.
It was after many tests that the scientists at ISRO confirmed that the soil available in the Namakkal area matched that of the lunar surface. 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.
Director of the Geology Department of Periyar University professor S Anbazhagan said 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," Anbazhagan told PTI. About 50 tonnes of soil were sent to ISRO so far.
He added that the soil was being sent to ISRO soon after it announced the Moon exploration programme, following the success of the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008. While Chandrayaan-1's mission was to orbit the Moon and not land on its surface, Chandrayaan-2's mission aimed to put a rover on the lunar surface.
Anbazhagan added that the town was geared to supply the soil even if a Chandrayaan-4 mission comes up.