India Awaits Chandrayaan-3 Moon Landing with Bated Breath as ISRO Mission Nears
As the much-anticipated soft landing of India’s third moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, draws near, 1.4 billion Indians are holding their collective breath, hoping for a successful outcome. People from all corners of the country are offering prayers for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) mission’s success.
Scheduled for August 23, 2023, at approximately 18:04 IST, the soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the moon’s south pole is an event of great significance. The powered descent of the Vikram lander is expected at 17:45 IST on the same day.
The live telecast of the landing operations at the Mission Operation Complex (MOX) will commence at 17:20 IST on Wednesday. Viewers can follow the live action on the ISRO website, its YouTube channel, Facebook, and the national broadcaster DD National TV starting from 17:27 IST on August 23, 2023.
ISRO has provided an update on Chandrayaan-3, confirming that the mission is proceeding according to schedule, with regular system checks underway. Additionally, they released a series of close-up images of the moon, which help the lander module determine its precise position by matching them against an onboard moon reference map.
If Chandrayaan-3 achieves its objectives, India will become the only country to have successfully landed on the lunar south pole, a region known for its rugged and challenging conditions. Currently, only the United States, China, and Russia have achieved successful moon landings.
Historically, lunar missions have focused on the equatorial region due to its favorable terrain and operating conditions. However, the lunar south pole presents a significantly different and more demanding landscape.
Given recent lunar mission setbacks, notably Russia’s Luna-25, the Chandrayaan-3 soft landing has garnered significant attention. Let’s take a closer look at the sequence of events in India’s mission since its launch 41 days ago.
The spacecraft was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota on July 14, utilizing a GSLV Mark 3 (LVM 3) heavy-lift launch vehicle. It entered lunar orbit on August 5, followed by a series of orbital maneuvers to bring it closer to the moon’s surface.
Throughout this period, ISRO has consistently reported that the spacecraft’s health remains “normal.”
On August 5, Chandrayaan-3 successfully entered lunar orbit through multiple key maneuvers. Then, on August 17, the mission achieved a significant milestone as the ‘Vikram’ lander module separated from the propulsion module. The lander is named after Vikram Sarabhai, widely regarded as the father of India’s space program.
Subsequently, the deboosting of the lander module occurred in two phases, slowing it down to position itself in an orbit with the moon’s closest point.
Chandrayaan-3’s primary objectives include a safe and soft landing on the lunar surface, rover exploration of the moon’s surface, and in-situ scientific experiments. The approved cost for the mission is Rs 250 crores, excluding launch vehicle expenses.
The development of Chandrayaan-3 began in January 2020, with an initial launch planned for 2021. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused unforeseen delays.
Astro-scientists believe that the partially successful Chandrayaan-2 mission will aid Chandrayaan-3, as the former meticulously mapped the moon’s surface, and these maps can now be used for the soft landing.
Astronomer Priya Hasan explained how the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, still circling the moon, is assisting in crucial aspects of the Chandrayaan-3 mission. While Chandrayaan-2’s lander had a hard landing and lost contact, ISRO recently reestablished two-way communication between the Chandrayaan-3 lander module and the still-orbiting Chandrayaan-2 orbiter.