India’s ambitious lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3, is scheduled to be launched from Sriharikota, the country’s only spaceport, on July 13 at 2.30 pm, according to senior officials. The spacecraft will embark on a journey lasting just over a month, with the goal of landing on the moon’s surface around August 23.
Building upon the previous mission, Chandrayaan-3 will target the same landing site near the moon’s south pole, at a latitude of 70 degrees. If successful, it will mark the first soft landing mission near the southern pole of the moon. This region was chosen due to the presence of several craters that remain in permanent shadows, offering increased opportunities for studying water ice. In fact, Chandrayaan-1, which also carried NASA payloads, played a crucial role in confirming the existence of water and hydroxyl (OH) molecules on the moon.
This landmark mission will position India as the fourth country in the world to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface, following the United States, Russia, and China. Notably, Israel and Japan attempted similar missions since the previous Chandrayaan endeavor but were unsuccessful in their lander missions.
Chandrayaan-3 will follow a trajectory similar to its predecessor. The spacecraft’s orbit will be raised multiple times until it escapes Earth’s gravity and slingshots towards the moon. After being captured by the moon’s gravity, the orbit will be lowered to a 100×100 km circular orbit before commencing the descent.
The descent phase of the mission has been famously referred to as “15 minutes of terror” by the former chairperson of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), K Sivan. This critical stage involves navigating the spacecraft through various stages to ensure a safe landing on the lunar surface.
With the orbiter from the previous Chandrayaan mission already in place around the moon, Chandrayaan-3 will primarily consist of the lander-rover configuration, situated atop a propulsion module. Although the basic structure remains unchanged, additional sensors have been incorporated to enhance the mission’s success rate. Rigorous testing has also been conducted to ensure a seamless execution.
The upcoming Chandrayaan-3 mission holds great promise for India’s space program. It represents another significant step towards exploring the moon, particularly the intriguing region near the southern pole. By leveraging previous achievements and incorporating new advancements, the Indian Space Research Organisation aims to expand our understanding of the moon’s composition, geological features, and potential resources.
As the countdown to Chandrayaan-3 begins, India eagerly anticipates joining the select group of nations that have successfully achieved a soft landing on Earth’s celestial neighbor. The mission embodies India’s commitment to scientific exploration and reinforces the nation’s growing reputation as a major player in the field of space exploration.