“India, I reached my destination and you too”; Chandrayaan 3 creates history

Over a month ago, India’s Chandrayaan-3 started its expedition to reach “where no man has gone before” and on August 23 successfully landed on the south pole of the Moon. Shortly after the soft landing at 18:04 (IST), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) released images of the landing site. This was India’s third attempt to land a spacecraft on the lunar side of the moon’s surface. Back in September 2019, Chandrayaan-2 was classified as a partial failure after its lander crashed on the Moon.

Nevertheless, the Chandrayaan-3 mission defied many odds to make a successful soft landing on the surface of the moon, elevating India into the exclusive club of spacefaring nations. India became the first nation to successfully land a spacecraft close to the south pole of the moon after Russia’s failed attempt at a lunar touchdown in the same region due to an engine problem. chandrayaan PIB

Photo Source: PIB

India’s recent journey to the moon was no ordinary accomplishment. On August 23rd, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s Chandrayaan-3 made a touchdown on the moon’s South Pole lunar surface at 6.04 pm (IST).

Upon the soft landing made by Chandrayaan-3 came the message to ISRO’s Bengaluru headquarters, “India, I reached my destination and you too.”

India made history by becoming the first nation to set foot on the South Pole, a large region of the moon that is permanently shrouded in shadow. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in South Africa for the BRICS Summit with five other countries, thanked Indians and space scientists for the accomplishment. In celebration of Chandrayaan-3’s successful landing, PM Modi, waved the national flag, as the ISRO scientists cheered and applauded at the headquarters.

This is a moment of pride for 140 crore Indians and I congratulate all the scientists who toiled hard to make this a success,” he said.

In the final minutes of touchdown, the lander’s speed gradually decreased from 1.68 km/s to virtually zero, permitting a soft descent on the lunar surface.

Four years ago, India made a similar attempt to soft-land land on the moon’s lunar surface with Chandrayaan-2, however, which was unsuccessful. Though the lander and rover were destroyed, its orbiter was still intact. Even now, it is still circling the Moon and assisting the Vikram lander in sending pictures and data back to Earth for study.

India’s lunar rover has made its first contact with the lunar surface as of August 24. According to the nation’s space agency, Chandrayaan-3’s rover “ramped down” from the lander and “India took a walk on the Moon!”

What were Chandrayaan-1 and Chandrayaan-2 missions?

Chandrayaan-1, which launched on October 22, 2008, was the first of India’s exploration missions. At the time ISRO had said that the primary science objective of the mission was to prepare a three-dimensional atlas of both near and far side of the Moon and to conduct chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface with high spatial resolution.

It was in operation for at least 312 days, making over 3,400 orbits of the moon, until August 29, 2009. Integration of locally created technologies was a significant accomplishment. The payload made the discovery of water (H2O) and hydroxyl (OH) on the lunar surface and discovered ice in the Moon’s North Polar Region.

An Orbiter, Lander, and Rover were assembled for Chandrayaan-2 and launched in July 2019 in order to explore the Moon’s south pole. Because its lander, Vikram, and rover, Pragyaan, crashed on the Moon’s surface on September 7 of that year, it was only partially successful.


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Chandrayaan 3 Explained

Chandrayaan-3 consists of an indigenous Lander module (LM), a Propulsion module (PM) and a Rover with the objective of developing and demonstrating new technologies required for interplanetary missions. The lander will have the capability to soft land at a specified lunar site and deploy the Rover which will carry out in-situ chemical analysis of the lunar surface during the course of its mobility. The Lander and the Rover have scientific payloads to carry out experiments on the lunar surface. The main function of the PM is to carry the LM from launch vehicle injection to the final lunar 100 km circular polar orbit and separate the LM from the PM. Apart from this, the Propulsion Module also has one scientific payload as a value addition which will be operated post-separation of the Lander Module.

ISRO has said that with Chandrayaan-3, the objective (Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) of the mission is “future discoveries of smaller planets in reflected light would allow us to probe into a variety of Exo-planets which would qualify for habitability (or for the presence of life).

Similar to Chandrayaan-2, the latest mission has a lander named Vikram and a rover named Pragyan. This lunar mission consists of a 2,148 kg propulsion module, a 1,752 kg lander module, and a 26 kg rover.

Vikram Lander has three payloads namely, RAMBHA-LP (Langmuir Probe): The instrument will help in measuring the near-surface plasma (ions and electrons) density and its changes with time. Second is ChaSTE (Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment) which would assist ISRO to be able to carry out the measurements of the lunar surface’s thermal properties near the polar region. Thirdly, ILSA (Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity): This instrument would help in measuring seismicity around the landing site and delineating the structure of the lunar crust and mantle.

The Pragyan Rover has two payloads. The first is APXS (Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer) which will help in deriving the chemical composition and inferring mineralogical composition, and the second payload LIBS (Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope) which will help in determining the elemental composition (Mg, Al, Si, K, Ca, Ti, Fe) of the moon’s soil and rocks around the landing site.

What’s next?

Over the course of the next 14 days, the Pragyan rover, which started its inquiry on August 24th, will conduct a number of ground-breaking tests on the lunar surface. It will operate as an intermediary, receiving the data and transmitting it back to Earth for thorough scientific examination. Over the course of the next 2 weeks, the six-wheeled Pragyan rover will scan the moon’s surface for many elements including magnesium, silicon, potassium, calcium, and iron.

But it’s important to note that both Vikram and Pragyan can only function in the sunlight, which they won’t have access to until the next lunar cycle begins after 14 days. It is not yet known if they will reanimate when the following lunar day begins, though ISRO scientists have not ruled it out.

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