India’s Chandrayaan-3 Achieves Historic Soft Landing on the Moon’s South Pole
In a historic achievement, India’s Chandrayaan-3 robotic lander successfully completed its rocket-powered descent to the lunar surface, marking India’s entry into the elite group of nations capable of landing operational spacecraft on the moon. This momentous event took place four days after Russia’s Luna-25 moon probe encountered an ill-fated crash landing.
Chandrayaan-3, with its highly sophisticated instruments, circled the moon in an elliptical orbit, gradually decreasing its altitude. Around 8:15 a.m. EDT, at an altitude of approximately 18 miles, its braking engines ignited, initiating the descent to the surface. After descending to about 4.5 miles above the moon’s surface and slowing from an astonishing 3,758 mph to roughly 800 mph, the spacecraft momentarily paused its descent for about 10 seconds to precisely align itself with the predetermined landing site.
Following this critical maneuver, the computer-controlled descent continued flawlessly, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watching via a television link. The spacecraft gracefully touched down on the lunar surface around 8:33 a.m., eliciting cheers and applause from engineers, mission managers, and dignitaries gathered at the Indian Space Research Organization’s control center.
ISRO Chairman Shri Somanath jubilantly announced, “We have achieved soft landing on the moon, yes, on the moon!” Prime Minister Modi then addressed the ISRO team, declaring in English, “India is now on the moon!” He emphasized that this success belongs to all of humanity and will pave the way for future moon missions by countries worldwide.
Chandrayaan-3, designed to operate throughout a full two-week lunar “day,” comprises the Vikram lander, powered by solar panels, and the Pragyan rover, weighing 83 pounds and equipped with six wheels. The lander carries instruments for measuring temperature, thermal conductivity, seismic activity, and the lunar plasma environment. Additionally, it houses a NASA laser reflector array to precisely gauge the moon’s distance from Earth.
The rover, equipped with its own solar array, is designed to descend from the lander to the lunar surface and carries instruments, including spectrometers for analyzing the elemental composition of lunar rocks and soil at the landing site.
While Chandrayaan-3’s mission has significant scientific objectives, its primary goal was to demonstrate soft-landing and rover technology, crucial for future deep space missions. This achievement adds India to the shortlist of nations successfully landing spacecraft on the moon and marks the first mission to the moon’s south polar region, a region of great interest due to the potential presence of ice deposits, which could serve as resources for future space exploration.
As the world watches this achievement, India joins the ranks of countries, including the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union, capable of lunar exploration. The success of Chandrayaan-3 represents a significant milestone in India’s space program, emphasizing its prowess as a rising “space superpower.” This feat will undoubtedly inspire further lunar exploration endeavors by nations worldwide.