Last Updated on August 23, 2023 by Ashish
Chandrayaan-3’s Historic Lunar Landing Boosts Indian Space Ambitions
Chandrayaan-3, the latest advancement in India’s ambitious lunar exploration program, has achieved a momentous feat by successfully making a controlled landing on the lunar surface. This achievement comes in the wake of the mission’s previous setback in 2019. The historic touchdown occurred precisely at 5:34 a.m. PT (6:04 p.m. IST) on Wednesday, a little over a month after the spacecraft was launched. This accomplishment elevates India to the status of the fourth nation globally to master a soft lunar landing, following the examples of the former Soviet Union, the U.S., and China. Notably, India’s success also marks the first instance of a spacecraft touching down on the moon’s uncharted south pole. This region holds immense potential for advancing our insights into the moon’s atmosphere and laying the groundwork for upcoming space expeditions.
In a recent turn of events, Russia made an attempt to outpace India by launching Luna-25, a spacecraft intended for a gentle landing on the moon’s south pole before Chandrayaan-3 could achieve the feat. Regrettably, the Russian spacecraft encountered a mishap, crashing into the moon on a Saturday due to a communication breakdown with Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency.
ISRO’s Triumph: Chandrayaan-3 Launch and Lunar Landing
The credit for this achievement goes to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which flawlessly launched the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft utilizing the “Launch Vehicle Mark-III” on July 14. The launch site was the Satish Dhawan Space Centre situated on Sriharikota island in South India.
Addressing the audience at ISRO’s mission operation complex in Bengaluru following the triumphant landing, Chairman S. Somanath attributed the success to the dedicated efforts of innumerable scientists, engineers, support staff, and industries associated with ISRO and other collaborating institutions.
In a display of solidarity, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson conveyed his congratulations to ISRO for Chandrayaan-3’s victorious moon landing through a post on the platform now referred to as X (previously Twitter). In his message, he expressed, “We are delighted to stand as your partners in this pioneering mission!”
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Chandrayaan-3: Advancing Lunar Exploration
Chandrayaan-3, the third edition of India’s Chandrayaan mission (translated as “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit), is aimed at showcasing a safe lunar landing, enabling roving on the moon’s surface, and conducting on-site scientific experiments. Developed within a budget of less than $75 million, the spacecraft is composed of a propulsion module, a lander, and a rover, all equipped with seven distinct scientific instruments.
Learning from the challenges faced by its predecessor, the lander of the Chandrayaan-3 mission incorporates enhanced sensors, software, and propulsion systems. ISRO conducted a series of simulations and supplementary tests to ensure the lander’s robustness for a successful landing.
The lander’s experimental scope encompasses seismic vibrations, near-surface plasma, lunar temperature, thermal conductivity, elemental composition, and spectral characteristics of Earth.
In the United States, preparations are underway for Artemis III, a crewed mission to the lunar south pole, with potential launch as early as 2025. Insights gained from India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission will be instrumental in understanding the lunar surface before any human missions.
Distinct from the lander, Chandrayaan-3’s rover is identical to the one used in Chandrayaan-2. The operational lifespan of both the lander and rover spans one lunar day, from sunrise to sunset, equivalent to about 14 Earth days.
Chandrayaan-3 comes more than 14 years after India’s debut moon landing mission in 2008, which led to the discovery of water molecules in the lunar atmosphere.
Despite the unfortunate landing incident of Chandrayaan-2’s lander rover, the orbiter from the same mission remains fully functional in lunar orbit, diligently continuing its lunar observations. The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter played a pivotal role in identifying the landing site for Chandrayaan-3’s lander and will continue to facilitate communication by relaying signals to Earth for interaction with the lander.
India’s Growing Space Exploration: Collaborations, Missions, and Prospects
“Certainly, this accomplishment doesn’t stem from our efforts alone. It signifies the culmination of work from a generation of ISRO leaders and scientists. This journey began with Chandrayaan-1 and continued with Chandrayaan-2, which is still operational and aiding our communication endeavors. As we celebrate Chandrayaan-3, it’s essential to recognize and express gratitude to all the teams that contributed to the development of Chandrayaan-1 and Chandrayaan-2,” stated Somanath.
In recent years, India has exhibited a growing interest in space exploration. With the involvement of over a hundred space technology startups, the country has made substantial progress in creating solutions encompassing launch vehicles, satellites, and hyperspectral earth imaging. New Delhi has also introduced a space policy aimed at fostering collaboration between private entities and government agencies.
ISRO’s agenda extends beyond Chandrayaan-3, encompassing missions such as the eagerly anticipated human space flight mission, Gaganyaan, and the solar observatory project, Aditya L1, designed for studying the sun.
In June, India formalized collaboration with other nations in space exploration by signing NASA’s Artemis Accords. Collaborative efforts are also in motion, with NASA providing advanced training to Indian astronauts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, scheduled for subsequent deployment to the International Space Station next year. Moreover, ISRO and NASA are closely collaborating on launching a low-Earth observatory (LEO) in 2024. This observatory aims to comprehensively map the entire planet within a 12-day period, providing consistent data for analyzing changes in Earth’s ecosystems, ice mass, vegetation biomass, sea levels, and occurrences of natural disasters and hazards.