ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3, India’s third lunar exploration mission, finally made a historic successful landing on the Moon’s south polar region on 23 August, 6:03 PM or 1803 hours IST.
With this India became the first ever country to land on the south pole of the Moon.
Following the partially successful Chandrayaan-2 mission, Chandrayaan-3’s landing marks a significant milestone in lunar exploration for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Chandrayaan-3’s Successful Touchdown on Lunar South Pole
Chandrayaan-3’s powered descent (the rocket-powered landing) commenced on August 23, 2023, and began at 1744 Hours or 5:44 PM IST.
Entering the rough braking phase which lasted for about 11 minutes, the vertical velocity of the lander was constantly being brought down and consequently the horizontal velocity.
During the entire powered descent phase so far, the lander was constantly capturing and sending images of the surroundings.
In the altitude hold phase, the altitude of the Vikram Lander was lowered from 7.4km to 6.8km, and the performance of the lander so far was nominal.
Past the altitude hold phase, all the sensors were working as expected and the lander entered the fine braking phase which remained for 3 minutes and its altitude was decreased to about 800m.
Vikram Lander was now just vertically 3km away from the Moon’s surface and then further decreased to about 1km and then the vertical descent phase arrived; the performance was nominal and everything was working as expected.
The successful touchdown was made at 1803 hours or 6:03 pm IST.
The landing took place near the lunar south pole, at coordinates 69.367621 S, 32.348126 E; the region has been carefully selected for its scientific interest.
The descent involved a series of braking maneuvers and control actions, guiding the spacecraft to a predetermined site.
The expanded landing area of 4km × 2.5km allowed for flexibility in the landing process.
Overview of Chandrayaan-3’s Touchdown Telecast Live on YouTube
The live telecast of operations at MOX started at 1720 Hours or 5:20 PM IST, at the beginning of the telecast a summary of ISRO’s previous lunar mission was presented to set up the theme.
The Footage of the telecast was broadcasted from the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), situated in Bengaluru.
This included information regarding Chandrayaan-1 and Chandrayaan-2, their mission objectives, journey, and reasonings for why Chandrayaan-2 failed and how ISRO learned from the failures, later, further details about the mission Chandrayaan-3 were explained.
Moving on as the powered descent started each landing including the vertical and horizontal velocities was constantly being reported by the speakers in the telecast.
What’s Next in Chandrayaan-3 Mission?
The communication link is established between the Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram Lander and MOX-ISTRAC, Bengaluru. Here are the images from the Lander Horizontal Velocity Camera taken during the descent.
After the successful landing, Chandrayaan-3 commenced its immediate post-landing operations, which included unfolding the ramp for the rover and activating instruments.
Later the mission will proceed with the following steps:
- Rover’s Exploration: Pragyaan, the 26kg rover, will investigate the lunar surface, utilizing LIBS and APXS to determine the surface’s chemical and mineralogical composition.
- Lander’s Payloads: The lander hosts four significant payloads: RAMBHA, ChaSTE, ILSA, and LRA, focusing on measuring local gas changes, studying thermal properties, seismic activity, and lunar-ranging studies.
- The Timeline: The solar-powered lander and rover will have approximately two weeks for exploration, and the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter can serve as a backup communications relay.
Both the Vikram Lander and the Pragyaan rover have a mission of life of 1 lunar day (14 Earth days).
Successful System Operations on the Moon
ISRO reported on Twitter that the Pragyaan Rover had already successfully ramped down from the Lander, the mission activities were on all schedule and all system operations were successful.
Learn all about the latest post-landing updates from Chandrayaan-3 through the article on this link.
Chandrayaan-3 Mission Overview
- Launch and Orbit: Chandrayaan-3 launched on July 14, 2023, entered lunar orbit on August 5, and successfully touched down on the Moon’s south polar region on August 23.
- Construction and Design: Consisting of a Lander and Rover configuration, weighing 3,900kg and costing 6.1bn rupees ($75m or £58m), Chandrayaan-3 is a technological marvel. Carefully prepared enhancements ensure the mission’s ability to explore the Moon’s challenging polar areas.
- Mitigating Challenges: Enhancements in rocket software and expansion of the landing area from 500m x 500m to 4km x 2.5 km were among the measures taken to increase the success probability.
Key Mission Objectives
- The lunar south pole’s water ice is the prime target, which could be a resource for future human exploration and provide insights into the history of the Moon and the solar system.
- With key payloads including LIBS and APXS, Chandrayaan-3 aims to explore the lunar surface and its elemental composition.