India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission begins exploring the Moon’s south pole

Chandrayaan-3's Pragyan rover descends a ramp from the lander to reach the moon's surface

Chandrayaan-3’s Pragyan rover descends a ramp from the lander to reach the moon’s surface


India’s historic Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission is currently exploring the lunar surface near the south pole. Building on this successful landing, the country is looking to move forward by sending a human into space and sending a craft to Mars.

Four hours after the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) landed on August 23, and the sun had risen at the landing site, Chandrayaan-3 lowered a ramp, and the six-wheeled vehicle Pragyan rover, which weighs only 26 kilograms, rolled on the lunar surface.

Over the next two weeks, the rover will conduct experiments to study surface composition with its alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer and search for water ice, which has the potential to provide a future crew base drinking water, oxygen and fuel. for spacecraft.

The lander and rover are expected to operate for one lunar day (equivalent to 14 Earth days) before sunset reduces its ability to harvest energy from solar panels. ISRO isn’t ruling out the possibility that the two will be revived once the sun rises after two weeks of darkness and temperatures drop to -238°C (-396.4°F), but it would be a bonuses.

India achieved a historic first by landing the craft near the moon. South Pole. Only China, the United States and the Soviet Union had previously gently landed craft anywhere on the Moon, and no country had explored the South Pole.

The mission was remarkable not only for its firsts, but also for its budget of just Rs 615 million (£59 million). This represents less than half of the inflation adjusted $149 million budget for the 1995 film Apollo 13 who only needed to depict a mission to the moon.

Chandrayaan-3, which takes its name from the Sanskrit word for “mooncraft”, took off on July 14 aboard a Mark-III launch rocket from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh and spent six weeks traveling around 380 000 kilometers on the way to the Moon. .

After a soft landing – which ISRO said in a tweet had taken place 40 days, 3 hours and 29 minutes after launch Shri M. Sankarandirector of ISRO’s UR Rao satellite center, referred to the previous Chandrayaan-2 mission, which ended in failure in 2019 when a software glitch caused its Vikram lander to crash into the moon’s surface. It was destroyed, along with the six-wheeled rover it contained, also named Pragyan, which would have explored the south pole of the Moon.

“Today we achieved what we set out to achieve in 2019,” Sankaran said. “It was delayed for about four years, but we did it. »

Sankaran went on to say that India would now seek to advance its space program and send a human into space and send a craft to Mars. A planned mission to monitor the solar atmosphere from a Lagrange point orbit between Earth and the sun, called Aditya-L1should already be launched on September 2.

Chandrayaan-3 mission:

All intended Rover movements have been verified. The Rover successfully covered a distance of about 8 meters.

Rover LIBS and APXS payloads are enabled.

All propulsion module, landing module and rover payloads are working nominally.…

-ISRO (@isro) August 25, 2023

The success of Chandrayaan-3 follows a series of failures in lunar missions around the world. A private attempt by a Japanese start-up in April ended unsuccessfully when he too crashed to the surface. Russia’s latest attempt at lunar exploration – its first lunar mission in nearly half a century – also ended in disaster earlier this week.

The Russian Luna 25 lander was supposed to make a soft landing, but instead hit the surface at high speed after what was supposed to be a brief engine start to reposition it, it apparently lasted too long, causing it to “cease to exist”, Russian space agency Roscosmos said.

Dimitrios Stroikos from the London School of Economics and Political Science, says that when ISRO first floated the idea of ​​an Indian lunar mission, it was “a little hard to sell” to a skeptical public, but that things have changed and public support has increased enormously.

“Now it’s more like ‘Great, we’ve done this, we need more, what’s next?’ What about manned spaceflight?'” Stroikos says. “These types of missions are highly visible and serve as a normative indicator of a state’s great power, status, modernity and prestige. But it is also a great scientific feat. [As] we saw it with Luna-25, it is very difficult to achieve a soft landing.”

Chandrayaan-3 may well leave a lasting mark on the Moon. ISRO did not respond to a request for an interview, but Pragyan’s rear wheel tread is said to be stamped with the ISRO logo and either Lion Capital of Ashoka or the Ashoka Chakra and will leave imprints of both on the surface of the moon as it traverses at just 1 centimeter per minute.


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