Wednesday, August 23, 2023
The Indian Space Research Agency (ISRO) on Tuesday will be completing the Chandrayaan-3 mission to land a spacecraft on the moon's south pole, which could significantly impact India's position as a space power and the future of lunar exploration.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission, which is expected to make India the fourth nation to land on the moon, was launched on July 14 from India's main spaceport in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The spacecraft has since looped through progressively wider-ranging orbits of Earth, transferred to a lunar orbit and emerged as a focus of national pride.
It also became a topic of global interest after Russia's failed attempt to beat it to a landing on the moon's south pole.
Let's dig a little deeper into India's remarkable mission in the race to the moon.
The Chandrayaan-3 is aimed at the lunar south pole, a region with water ice, or frozen water, that could be a source of oxygen, fuel and water for future moon missions or a more permanent moon colony.
If it lands successfully, the Chandrayaan-3 is expected to remain functional for two weeks, running a series of experiments including a spectrometer analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface.
The Chandrayaan-3 lander stands about 2 meters tall and has a mass of just over 1,700kg (3,747.86 lb), roughly on par with an SUV. It is designed to deploy a smaller, 26kg lunar rover.
Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement to Reuters that the US space agency was "looking forward" to what would be learned from the Indian mission.
India's previous mission, the Chandrayaan-2, in an attempt to land on the lunar south pole, failed in 2019.
Chandrayaan-2 successfully deployed an orbiter but its lander and rover were destroyed in a crash near where the Chandrayaan-3 will attempt a touchdown today.
Rough terrain is one of the complications of a south pole landing. ISRO scientists say they have made adjustments that make it more likely the current mission will stick its landing. That includes a system to broaden the potential landing zone.
The lander has also been equipped with more fuel and sturdier legs for impact.
Russia's first moon mission in 47 years failed over the weekend when its Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the moon.
A private Japanese space startup, ispace, failed an attempted lunar landing in April.
A successful mission would make India only the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, after the former USSR, the US and China, and mark its emergence as a space power, just ahead of national elections next year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is also looking to spur investment in private space launches and related satellite-based businesses.
India wants its private space companies to increase their share of the global launch market by fivefold within the next decade.
Modi said when the moon mission launched that ISRO was writing "a new chapter in India's space odyssey" and elevating "the dreams and ambitions of every Indian."
ISRO plans to telecast the planned landing starting from 1720 IST (1150 GMT) on Wednesday.