In a few hours from now, if all goes well,Chandrayaan-3, India’s mission to the moon, will soft-land on the lunar surface. This is India’s second attempt to land on the moon. In 2019, Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander crashed onto the moon’s surface due to a technical failure.
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) scientists have modified the systems in the Chandrayaan-3 after learning lessons from the crash-landing. The landing is expected to take place at 6:04 PM (IST).
What went wrong with the Chandrayaan-2’s lander?Click here to know more.
If the Chandrayaan-3 soft-lands on the moon successfully, India will be only the fourth country to reach the moon after the US, China and the Soviet Union. Interestingly, Russia made an attempt to land on the moon on August 20, 2023. However, its Luna-25 spacecraft spun out of control and crashed on to the lunar surface.
What should you expect?
The spacecraft LVM3 has two main parts: the propulsion module and the lander rover module. The propulsion module’s primary job is to transport the lander rover payload to the moon.
Just like Chandrayaan-2, this lander is called Vikram and the rover is named Pragyan. Once in the moon’s vicinity, the lander detaches from the propulsion module and descends gently onto the moon’s surface. The rover is equipped with various instruments, and it will crawl on the moon’s surface to conduct experiments. These include analysing the moon’s soil, studying sub-surface heat conduction, and observing moon quakes.
The mission had a perfect start on July 14, 2023, when the 43.5-metre-tall LVM3 rocket lifted off from ISRO’s launch station at Sriharikota, an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh. On July 15, 2023, the initial orbit raising manoeuvre was accomplished.
During the period between July 16 and July 31 three orbit raising manoeuvres were completed successfully. On August 1, 2023, Chandrayaan-3 was inserted in a translunar orbit, and on August 5, 2023, the insertion was confirmed to be successful.
Later, on August 9, the ISRO adjusted the pathway of Chandrayaan-3 to obtain a better lunar orbit of 174 km x 1437 km. On August 14, 2023, India’s mission to the moon reached closer to the moon’s surface. On August 17, 2023, the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover were separated from its propulsion system. Later, on August 18, 2023, the de-boosting operation was confirmed to be successful.
The mission has three objectives. First, to demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the moon. The second objective is to demonstrate the rover Vikram’s ability to move on the moon. Thirdly, ISRO aims to conduct in-situ scientific experiments.
Chandrayaan-2 failed as the lander, Vikram, lost communication with ground stations while attempting to soft-land on the moon’s surface. This was due to a valve failure that reduced flow into the engines. However, this time, the ISRO has focused on thrust control, rotation speed, and trajectory adjustments for a successful landing.