The Chandrayaan-3 lands on the moon making India the fourth nation after Russia, China and US to perform a lunar landing
The lander module from India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully touched down on the surface of the Moon on Wednesday. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Indians across the globe celebrated the achievement, which makes India the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon, after the Soviet Union, the US, and China.
The event was live streamed by the ISRO on its YouTube page.
Uniquely, the Chandrayaan-3 mission is the first in history to land near the lunar south pole. For the lander module to touch down, the ISRO activated an automatic sequence, triggering an algorithm that took over once the spacecraft had moved above the designated spot, and then helping it reach the lunar surface.
On 6 September 2019, the Chandrayaan-2 during its landing phase, deviated from its intended trajectory starting at 2.1 km (1.3 mi) altitude, and had lost communication when touchdown confirmation was expected. Initial reports suggesting a crash were confirmed by ISRO stating that “it must have been a hard landing”.
The Failure Analysis Committee concluded that the crash was caused by a software glitch. Unlike ISRO’s previous record, the report of the Failure Analysis Committee was not made public.
The Chandrayaan-3 lander is around 2 meters tall and has a mass of just over 1,700kg. The lander and the rover together have six payloads to conduct the study of the lunar south pole, a region with water ice which, according to scientists, could be a source of oxygen, fuel, and water for future Moon missions.
On August 18, the ISRO achieved a significant milestone by successfully executing its inaugural deboosting operation, which resulted in a reduction of the orbit to 113km by 157km. This operation took place one day after the separation of the lander module from the propulsion module. The separation marked the conclusion of a 34-day expedition towards the Moon. Following this, on August 20, the ISRO conducted the concluding phase of deboosting for the lander module. This operation effectively adjusted the lander module’s orbit to 25km by 134km.
Anticipation and excitement gripped India in the days before the landing, with temples, mosques, and churches reverberating with prayers, while schools, community centers, and India’s diplomatic missions abroad invited people to witness the landing through live telecasts.
India’s ascent as a significant space player comes before next year’s national elections. The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is focusing on stimulating investment in the space sector, particularly for satellite launches.
Modi emphasized during the launch of the Moon mission that the ISRO was writing “a new chapter in India’s space odyssey,” thereby uplifting “the aspirations and ambitions of every Indian.”
Chandrayaan means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit.