In a remarkable feat of India’s growing expertise in space exploration, the Chandrayaan-3 mission has accomplished a soft landing on the lunar South Pole. The mission’s success has ushered in an era of innovative advancements and promises to yield transformative learnings into lunar mysteries that have interested scientists for decades.
Chandrayaan-3’s journey to lunar victory was completed in 42 days, navigating through critical phases precisely. This mission garnered attention for its audacious goal: to explore the uncharted territories of the coveted lunar South Pole, building upon the legacy of Chandrayaan-1.
The significance of this landing at the lunar South Pole lies in the rugged terrain that characterizes the region covered with craters and mountainous terrains. Unlike the relatively smoother sites of previous lunar landings, the South Pole presented a challenge that demanded advanced technologies and fail-proof planning.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) orchestrated this historic event, employing specialised technologies developed by ISRO and research teams. The Vikram lander, a key component of Chandrayaan-3, executed a flawless soft landing at 6:04 PM (IST), marking a triumphant end to the disappointment faced during Chandrayaan-2’s crash-landing four years earlier. Chandrayaan-3 carries an array of scientific instruments designed to dig deep into the lunar surface’s secrets. Among these instruments is the Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA) for studying surface plasma, Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) for analyzing thermal properties, and the Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) to measure lunar quakes and study lunar composition.
The Pragyan rover, weighing 26 kilograms and equipped with six wheels, rolled out onto the lunar surface from the Chandrayaan-3 lander. Over 14 Earth days, the rover and lander, with seven scientific instruments, will conduct an array of experiments, from studying lunar quakes and mineral compositions to analysing electrons and ions near the Moon’s surface. The mission also aims to research water ice—an essential resource for future lunar habitation and deep-space exploration.
What sets Chandrayaan-3 apart is its monumental achievement—being the first country to land a spacecraft in this uncharted terrain, thus joining the ranks of the United States, the Soviet Union and China as the only nations to achieve a soft lunar landing. The spacecraft moreover, was developed within a budget of less than $75 million (INR 7.5 crores), comprising of a propulsion module, a lander and a rover that collectively carries seven scientific instruments.
ISRO’s Future Endeavours
As ISRO sets its sights on future endeavours, the Aditya L1 solar observation mission is poised for launch in September, and progress continues on India’s first crewed space mission, Gaganyaan. ISRO chairperson S Somanath said the space agency will conduct a mission as early as October to demonstrate the crew module’s efficacy and escape capabilities.
“India’s successful moon mission is not just India’s alone,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said, “Our approach of one Earth, one family, one future is resonating globally. This human-centric approach we present and represent has been welcomed universally. Our moon mission is also based on the same human-centric approach. Therefore, this success belongs to all of humanity and will help moon missions by other countries in the future. I’m confident that all countries in the world, including those from the global south, are capable of achieving such feats. We can all aspire for the Moon and beyond.” Further, to commemorate Chandrayaan-3’s landing spot on the Moon, PM Modi announced that it will be known as Shiv-Shakti Point and the site where Chandrayaan-2 left its footprint on the Moon will be known as Tiranga Point. Moreover, August 23 henceforth will be celebrated as Hindustan National Space Day.
The mission is evidence of countless individuals’ dedication and hard work, fulfilling the dreams of millions of Indians. Chandrayaan-3’s landing paves the way for humanity’s cosmic journey, reaffirming that the Moon, Mars, and beyond are within reach.