After a 40-day journey starting from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 successfully made a soft landing on the moon at 6:03 PM IST on August 23. This makes India the first nation to achieve a lunar landing near the moon’s south pole. With the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3, India is now 4th country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the moon after the Soviet Union (now Russia), the United States, and China. Celebrations broke out across the nation after the Chandrayaan-3 lander module successfully touched down on the moon.
Soon after landing, Chandrayaan-3 sent its first message: “India, I reached my destination, and you too!” Shortly after ISRO chief S. Somnath announced, “We have achieved a soft landing on the moon. India is on the Moon.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who witnessed the historic moment virtually from Johannesburg, congratulated ISRO scientists saying, “This is a historic moment and sounds the bugle for a developed India.” The ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru echoed with the slogans of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (long live mother India) and ‘Vande Matram’ (I salute you, mother). Celebrations broke out across India, with people bursting crackers, distributing sweets, and dancing in joy.
‘Chandrayaan’ is a Hindi/Sanskrit word meaning moon vehicle; ‘Chandra’ means moon and ‘Yaan’ means vehicle. Chandrayaan-3 is the third and most recent Indian lunar exploration mission under the Chandrayaan program of ISRO. It consists of a lander named Vikram and a rover named Pragyan, similar to those of the Chandrayaan-2. Its propulsion module acts like an orbiter. Chandrayaan-3 will explore the south pole of the moon for nearly two weeks, running a series of experiments including a spectrometer analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface.
In 2019, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission successfully deployed an orbiter but its lander failed just before landing. The reason for the landing crash was that the flow of fuel to the thrusters did not come down causing the engine to generate more thrust than needed and disorienting the lander. As a result, the camera that was supposed to point at the chosen landing site pointed farther away. The software failed to make corrections for this, and the vehicle eventually crashed on the moon’s surface. Chandrayaan-3 was designed having learned from the past mistakes of Chandrayaan-2 and with several corrective measures employed to avoid failure.
The moon rover ‘Pragyan’ will take a few hours or a day to come out of the spacecraft, but India has already created history by landing a spacecraft on the rough terrain of the south pole of the moon for the first time ever in human history. This mission will allow India to explore if there is ice or water on the moon. The ice on the lunar south pole could supply fuel, oxygen, and drinking water for future missions.
Notably, Chandrayaan-3 was launched with a budget of only $74 million, half of the budget of the Hollywood movie Interstellar. Chandrayaan-3 is just another triumph of India’s cost-effective space engineering. Its success has come less than a week after Russia’s Luna-25 mission failed.
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