Chandrayaan-3: Indian Moon Landing Success

the Vikram module on the moon

India's Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully landed on the lunar south pole, making history and advancing lunar exploration. Image:X/ @iamsunnydeol

IN a monumental achievement, India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission has successfully accomplished a soft landing on the lunar south pole, marking a significant milestone in space exploration. The mission’s Vikram lander touched down on the Moon’s icy regions, becoming the first spacecraft to do so. This accomplishment not only places India as the fourth country to achieve a successful lunar landing but also the first to master the challenge of landing at the satellite’s hostile south pole.

The landing took place on a Wednesday, August 23, at 2.30 pm Spanish time, with the Vikram lander executing a precise braking manoeuvre and automatic approach to its designated landing site. The landing process was meticulously planned and executed, representing a tremendous technological feat. Shri S. Somanath, the head of the Indian space agency, announced, ‘We have achieved the soft landing. India is on the moon,’ marking a momentous occasion for the nation’s space program.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking from South Africa via video conference, emphasised that this achievement belonged to all of humanity. He highlighted that the success of Chandrayaan-3 would pave the way for future lunar missions by various countries, promoting the aspiration of reaching not just the moon but beyond.

20 Minutes of Terror

The landing sequence, often referred to as the ‘20 minutes of terror,’ involved a series of critical manoeuvres that began as the Vikram module approached the Moon at speeds exceeding 6,000 kilometres per hour. The spacecraft initiated a controlled descent, adjusting its orientation from horizontal to vertical while simultaneously firing its rockets to reduce speed. The guidance and propulsion systems worked in harmony to synchronise this complex process, allowing the Vikram module to autonomously track its position and speed, identify potential hazards like craters and obstacles, and select a safe landing zone.

Chandrayaan-3’s primary mission objective, with an estimated cost of approximately €70 million, was to demonstrate a safe and soft landing in the Moon’s south polar region. Beyond this feat, the mission aimed to advance scientific understanding by studying the thermal, physical, and chemical properties of the lunar surface at the landing site.

Reaction from Around the World

The successful landing drew accolades from around the world. Josef Aschbacher, the director-general of the European Space Agency (ESA), praised India’s demonstration of new technologies and its achievement of a soft landing on another celestial body. Bill Nelson, the head of NASA, extended congratulations on India’s accomplishment, highlighting the partnership between the two space agencies.

Learning from Russia’s Mistakes

Chandrayaan-3’s landing comes on the heels of Russia‘s Luna-25 probe mishap, which aimed to explore the lunar south pole but lost communication and crashed. Learning from past failures, India’s space agency incorporated technical enhancements and rigorous Earth-based testing, resulting in a sense of confidence in the mission’s success.

The Vikram lander’s accomplishment marks a tribute to Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, a pioneer of the Indian space program. The spacecraft is equipped with scientific instruments, including a rover named Pragyan, tasked with analysing the chemical composition of the lunar terrain. Pragyan carries a laser-based instrument to detect elements such as oxygen and hydrogen, which constitute water.

Looking forward, India’s space agency is collaborating with the Japanese agency, JAXA, on the LUCAX mission. This ambitious plan will deploy a lunar landing module developed by India and a mobile vehicle from Japan to explore the perpetually shadowed regions near the lunar south pole, where substantial water ice deposits are suspected. As global interest in lunar exploration intensifies, India’s Chandrayaan-3 achievement sets a precedent for humanity’s continued journey into space, unlocking new opportunities for scientific discovery and intercontinental collaboration.

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Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!