In a momentous achievement, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) marked a historic day for India’s space exploration on 23 August 2023 with the successful soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the Moon. With this achievement, India joined an exclusive club, becoming the fourth nation to soft-land on the Moon, following the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union.
Chandrayaan-3 received global tracking support from ESA’s European Space Tracking System (ESTRACK) and NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), underscoring the international collaboration in space exploration.
What sets this mission apart is that Chandrayaan-3 is the first to successfully land in the lunar south pole region, a significant milestone in lunar exploration. The polar region holds immense importance as some of its permanently shadowed craters are believed to contain water ice, offering potential resources for future lunar endeavors.
Launched via an LVM 3 rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on July 14th, Chandrayaan-3 began its lunar journey, entering lunar orbit on August 5th. The Vikram lander, weighing 1,752 kilograms (3,862 pounds), separated from the upper stage on August 17th, preparing for its historic descent. In the lead-up to landing, the lander captured a sequence of images of the primary landing site, providing crucial data for engineers.
The mission of Chandrayaan-3 encompasses three primary objectives. First, it aims to demonstrate the capability of a soft lunar landing. Second, it involves showcasing the mobility of the Vikram rover on the lunar surface. Lastly, ISRO seeks to conduct on-site scientific experiments.
On August 23, Chandrayaan-3 achieved a significant milestone by successfully executing its initial mission – a gentle touchdown on the Moon’s south pole. This accomplishment marks a substantial achievement in India’s lunar exploration journey. Subsequently, the Pragyan rover, safely housed within the Vikram lander, initiated its operations on the lunar terrain.
During the 14-day operation, equivalent to one lunar day, the Pragyan rover will conduct experiments and collect data from the lunar surface. This data will be transmitted to the Vikram lander and relayed to Earth for analysis. The collected data holds immense scientific value and has the potential to deepen our understanding of the Moon’s surface and geological composition, including the analysis of the chemical composition of the lunar surface and a comprehensive examination of lunar soil and rocks.
Inside the Chandrayaan-3 Lander Module, a specialized instrument called ILSA (Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity) plays a crucial role in detecting and analyzing lunar seismic activity, including vibrations beneath the Moon’s surface.
Additionally, the RAMBHA experiment and the Langmuir probe (LP) will investigate near-surface plasma activities on the Moon, measuring factors such as ion and electron density and the thermal properties of the lunar surface in the polar region.
Chandra’s Surface Thermo-Physical Experiment (ChaSTE) will focus on scrutinizing the thermo-physical behavior of the Moon’s surface, further enriching our understanding of lunar dynamics. It’s essential to note that Chandrayaan-3 was not designed for a return journey to Earth. Unlike missions involving human crews or sample return missions, Chandrayaan-3’s primary objectives revolve around lunar exploration and scientific experimentation. Once its lunar surface operations conclude, the mission is expected to end on the Moon.
Chandrayaan-3’s success underscores India’s commitment to space exploration and its ability to overcome challenges in pursuit of scientific discovery and advancements in space exploration. This achievement is a source of pride for India and a testament to the nation’s growing capabilities in space science and technology.