The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is expected to touch down on the lunar surface at around 6:04 PM IST .
Today, India is poised to make history by achieving a soft landing on the Moon’s south polar region, a feat that no other country has ever accomplished.
Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-up mission to Chandrayaan-2, which was launched in 2019 but failed to land successfully due to a technical glitch. The Vikram lander and the Pragyan rover of Chandrayaan-2 crashed on the Moon, but the orbiter remained functional and continues to provide valuable data .
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This time, ISRO has made some modifications to the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft to avoid the same errors. The lander and rover module of Chandrayaan-3, which are equipped with six wheels and various scientific instruments, will perform a series of experiments on the lunar soil and rocks. According to ISRO’s website , the objectives of Chandrayaan-3 are:
Objectives of Chandrayaan-3
- To measure the density and temporal variations of plasma (ions and electrons) near the surface of the Moon
- To study the thermal properties of the lunar surface in the near-polar region
- To monitor the seismic activity around the landing site and map the structure of the lunar crust and mantle
- To analyze the chemical and mineralogical composition of the lunar surface and subsurface
- To determine the elemental abundance of soil and rocks near the landing site
Science and strategy go hand-in-hand with Chandrayaan-3. India, which has a nuclear arsenal and is the world’s fifth-largest economy, wants to showcase its technological and security capabilities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has ambitious plans for India’s space sector, including sending humans to space by 2022 .
Chandrayaan-3 also faces stiff competition from other countries and private entities that are vying for a share of the lunar exploration market. Recently, Russia’s LUNA-25 probe crashed on the Moon . In April, a Japanese company’s spacecraft failed to land on the Moon . In 2019, an Israeli nonprofit’s spacecraft was destroyed on impact .
The Moon’s south pole is a challenging and intriguing destination for space exploration. Unlike the equatorial region, where the US, China, and USSR have landed before, the south pole has rugged terrain, extreme temperatures, and areas of permanent darkness and sunlight. It also harbors potential resources such as water ice and minerals that could be useful for future missions .
If Chandrayaan-3 succeeds in landing on the Moon’s south pole, it will be a historic achievement for India and a milestone for humanity. It will also pave the way for further discoveries and innovations in lunar science and technology.