Chandrayaan 3 Successfully: India’s historic mission to the moon’s south pole is set to land

Chandrayaan 3: An earlier Indian attempt in 2019 failed, and the latest attempt comes just days after Russia’s first moon mission in 50 years crashed.

Chandrayaan 3

Chandrayaan 3
Chandrayaan 3

India may become the first country to land a spacecraft on the moon’s south pole, just days after a Russian probe crashed in the same area – a historic moment for the world’s most populous country as it rapidly approaches milestones set by global space powers.

Chandrayaan-3, which means “Mooncraft” in Sanskrit, is scheduled to land near the lunar south pole shortly after 6 p.m. India time (12:30 p.m. GMT) on Wednesday.

The front-page headline of The Times of India on Wednesday read, “India reaches for the moon,” with the hoped-for lunar landing dominating local news. According to The Hindustan Times, “it’s D-Day for the moon mission.”

An earlier Indian attempt in 2019 failed, and the latest attempt comes just days after Russia’s first moon mission in nearly 50 years, destined for the same region, crashed on the lunar surface.

However, former Indian space chief K Sivan stated that the latest photos transmitted back to Earth by the lander gave every indication that the final leg of the journey would be successful.

“It gives me hope that we will be able to complete the landing mission without incident,” he told the AFP news agency on Monday.

Sivan went on to say that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had made improvements following a four-year failure in which scientists lost contact with the previous lunar module moments before its scheduled landing.

“Chandrayaan-3 will be more rugged,” he explained. “We are confident, and we anticipate that everything will go as planned.”

The Indian Space Association’s director general, Anil Kumar Bhatt, told Al Jazeera that he is confident the spacecraft will land safely.

“India has already had two missions, Chandrayaan-1, which was a total success; Chandrayaan-2, which was partially successful; and of course, our lander at the time crashed-landed, but I am very confident that the lessons learned from that have been picked up very well by our scientists,” he said.

“And this time, they’ve put all the fail-safe mechanisms in place, they’ve learned the right lessons, and I’m confident… we’ll have very good news.”

The good times are continuing

The mission was launched in front of thousands of cheering spectators nearly six weeks ago, but it took much longer to reach the moon than the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s, which arrived in a matter of days.

Because India’s rockets are much less powerful than those used by the US at the time, the probe must orbit Earth several times to gain speed before embarking on its month-long lunar trajectory.

Vikram, which means “valour” in Sanskrit, separated from the spacecraft’s propulsion module last week and has been sending back images of the moon’s surface since entering lunar orbit on August 5.

The ISRO announced on social media a day before the landing that the landing was proceeding on schedule and that its mission control complex was “buzzed with energy and excitement.”

“Smooth sailing is continuing,” the agency said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

India has a relatively low-budget aerospace program, but it has grown significantly in size and momentum since sending a probe to orbit the moon in 2008.

The latest mission costs $74.6 million, which is significantly less than that of other countries and a testament to India’s frugal space engineering.

According to experts, India can keep costs low by copying and adapting existing space technology, as well as by employing a large number of highly skilled engineers who earn a fraction of what their foreign counterparts do.

India became the first Asian country to place a satellite in orbit around Mars in 2014, and it plans to launch a three-day crewed mission into Earth’s orbit next year.

Extremely important

Former ISRO chief Sivan stated that India’s efforts to explore the relatively unexplored lunar south pole would make a “very, very important” contribution to scientific knowledge.

Only Russia, the United States, and China have previously successfully landed on the lunar surface.

Russia launched its own lunar probe earlier this month, the country’s first in nearly 50 years.

If successful, it would have beaten Chandrayaan-3 to become the first mission of any nation to make a controlled landing around the lunar south pole by a matter of days.

However, the Luna-25 probe crashed-landed on Saturday as it was preparing to descend due to an unspecified incident.

Sanctions imposed since the start of the Ukraine war have had an impact on Russia’s space industry, which has also been plagued by corruption and a lack of innovation and partnerships.

Where can you see the launch live?

The event will be live streamed on YouTube by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The coverage is set to begin at 5:20 p.m. India time (11:50 p.m. GMT).

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