ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 Mission: India’s Journey to Moon’s South Pole

By Sophia Francise

August 23, 2023
graphic featuring chandrayaan-3 landed on top of moon, with the text chandrayaan-3 written behind

Chandrayaan-3 is the 3rd lunar exploration mission by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

It is expected to be a follow-up mission to Chandrayaan-2, which had a partially successful landing module but did not achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface. 

The primary objective of Chandrayaan-3 is to successfully land a lunar rover on the Moon’s south polar region.

India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander launched on July 14 and entered lunar orbit on the 5th of August.

It is currently lowering its orbit in preparation for a landing attempt that’s expected to occur on August 23.

Update: Chandrayaan-3 has made a successful soft landing on the lunar south pole on 23 August, at 1803 Hours or 6:03 PM IST.

Construction and Budget of Chandrayaan-3

ISRO’s Chief Sreedhara Panicker Somanath expressed that they have carefully studied the data from Chandrayaan-2’s crash and carried out simulation exercises to fix the glitches in Chandrayaan-3, which weighs around 3,900kg.

The total cost of Chandrayaan-3 is about 6.1 billion INR (75 million US Dollars or 58 million Euros).

Chandrayaan-3 is primarily a landing and roving mission, and unlike the Chandrayaan-2, it did not have an orbiter element. 

Chandrayaan-3 consists of a Lander and Rover configuration, which was launched by LVM3 from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota

The Vikram lander (named after the founder of ISRO – Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai) weighs about 1,500kg and carries within its belly the 26kg Pragyaan rover (named after the Sanskrit word for wisdom).

The propulsion module carried the lander and rover configuration till the 100 km lunar orbit, the module has a Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload to study Earth’s spectral and Polari metric measurements from the lunar orbit.

Vikram Lander Payloads & Equipments

  • Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA): It will be used to measure how the local gas and plasma environment changes with time.
  • Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE): This will be used to study the lunar surface’s thermal properties.
  • Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA): It will measure seismic activity at the landing site to delineate the subsurface crust and mantle.
  • Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA): The NASA-provided retroreflector will allow for lunar-ranging studies.

Pragyaan Rover Payloads & Equipments

  • Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS): This determines the chemical and mineralogical composition of the surface.
  • Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS): It is used to recognize and study the surface’s elemental composition, Elements like magnesium, aluminum, silicon, potassium, calcium, titanium, and iron are the primary targets for the rover.

Mission Objectives and Challenges for ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3

One of the biggest things is that it has got to get the spacecraft from a horizontal position to a vertical position. That is difficult. All these aspects have to be looked into.

PK Ghosh, while speaking to ANI

The lander’s touchdown test limit is only ≤ 3.0 m/sec (10.8km/hr) vertical velocity, Ghosh further explained the deboosting or retrorocket process, which reduces the spacecraft’s speed. 

Chandrayaan-3 has to drop its speed from 1.68km/s (6,048km/hr) horizontally, changing direction to make the craft vertical and finally bringing it to zero after making a soft landing on the moon, “This is the most critical task,” said the ISRO’s Chief S Somanath.

“You must realize that it is traveling at a tremendous speed, more than 6000 kilometers per hour, and then it has got to reduce it to near zero, nearly 1 meter/second. In this, you try to get the spacecraft into a circular orbit and now it is almost circular. The perigee is just about 25 kilometers. This is the second of the deboosting, orbit-adjusting maneuvers. Finally, on the 23rd, you will see that it will start coming down,” PK Ghosh told ANI. 

Chandrayaan-3 underwent the second and final deboosting operation in the early hours of Sunday.

There are 3 fundamental mission objectives of Chandrayaan-3:

  1. Demonstrating a safe and soft landing on the Moon’s surface
  2. Demonstrating Rover roving on the moon
  3. Conducting scientific experiments in the locality of the spacecraft on the Moon.

How Will ISRO Mitigate Challenges with Chandrayaan-3’s Journey?

ISRO has enhanced the rocket’s software to have a larger tolerance for faults in order to lower the risk of malfunction during the flight.

During the second voyage to the Moon, we used five engines to reduce velocity — which is called retardation. These engines developed higher thrust than expected.

ISRO’s Chief Somanath explained.

For Chandrayaan 3, engineers expanded the landing area from 500m x 500m to 4km x 2.5 km. “So, if the performance is poor, it can land anywhere within that area,” he said.

Chandrayaan-3 also has more fuel for travel, handling dispersion, or allowing for an alternate landing site.


Scientists are fascinated by the large amounts of water ice that may be found on the bottoms of continuously shadowed craters in the Moon’s polar regions.

These lunar cold traps hold a priceless resource that could let humans explore Earth’s nearest neighbor and preserve a fossil record of the early solar system.

However, exploring the polar areas is a highly challenging task; instrument operation is challenging due to the lack of sunlight and extremely cold temperatures.

It can also be problematic when there are big craters present.

Journey of the Chandrayaan-3 to the Lunar Surface?

From liftoff to touchdown, it took about 40 days to place Chandrayaan-3 on the lunar surface.

The journey of Chandrayaan-3 to the lunar south pole would involve several stages.

Here’s a general outline of the mission profile so far:

Chandrayaan-3’s Launch to Space

The Chandrayaan-3 mission began on July 14 with a launch aboard India’s LVM3 rocket, India’s heavy lift vehicle capable of placing about eight metric tons into low-Earth orbit.

The LVM3 placed the spacecraft and an attached propulsion module into an elongated Earth orbit with an apogee, or high point, of about 36,500 kilometers (22,700 miles) above the planet. 

Trans-lunar Injection of Chandrayaan-3

After reaching Earth’s orbit, the spacecraft would perform a trans-lunar injection (TLI) maneuver to escape Earth’s gravity and set a course toward the Moon.

This will be enabled by the propulsion module, which will raise its orbit several times before transferring into lunar orbit.

The propulsion module will move Chandrayaan-3 lower until it reaches a circular 100-kilometer (about 62-mile) orbit. 

Chandrayaan-3’s Lunar Orbit Insertion

Chandrayaan-3 reached the vicinity of the Moon on 1st August, where it performed a lunar orbit insertion (LOI), allowing it to achieve an orbit of 288 km × 369328 km.

Lunar-Orbit Insertion (LOI) was successfully performed on August 5, 2023, the two vehicles separated there, leaving the lander to deorbit and touch down in the Moon’s south polar region. 

At the moment of contact, the lander should move less than 2 meters vertically and 0.5 meters horizontally (6.5 and 1.6 feet per second, respectively).


Orbit Circularization Phase

The mission reached the orbit circularisation phase on 14 August and was in a 151 km x 179 km orbit.

Chandrayaan-3 attained an orbit of 153 km x 163 km after the firing on August 16, 2023.

The Lander Module successfully separated from the Propulsion Module on 17 August and deboosted on August 18.

The Lander Module reached 113 km x 157 km orbit around the moon on 19 August and performed a second de-boost on August 20, from where it attained 25 km x 134 km orbit.

Chandrayaan-3’s Successful Powered Descent and Touchdown on Lunar Surface

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.

Chandrayaan-3 Expected Landing Date, Time, and Live Broadcast

Chandrayaan-3’s anticipated touchdown on the moon’s surface is expected to be on August 23, 2023, at 6:04 PM or 1804 IST (8:34 EDT), and a soft landing was made by the lander just a minute earlier than expected.

The mission is on schedule according to the ISRO, and the landing attempt or powered descent is expected to commence earlier, around 1745 Hours IST.

The live telecast of operations at MOX begins at 1720 Hours or 5:20 PM IST.


Powered descent is just another way to say, descending the spacecraft from the lunar orbit to the moon’s surface using a rocket-powered landing, this is a critical part of the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

Watch Chandrayaan-3’s Moon Landing Live

The landing of Chandrayaan-3 will be broadcast live on the ISRO’s official website and all of its social media channels. 

You can also view the live stream of the ceremony on ISRO’s YouTube account and Facebook; the occasion will be broadcast on the DD National television network

The live stream started at 5:20 PM, leading to the predicted landing at 6:04 PM, to give spectators enriched perspectives.

Chandrayaan-3’s Mission Post Lunar Landing 

The lunar south pole is of great interest to scientists and space agencies because it is believed to contain water ice in permanently shadowed craters. 

Water ice on the Moon could be used as a resource for future human exploration and provide insights into the history of the Moon and the solar system.

Chandrayaan-3 has technological and scientific tasks to complete.

The Chandrayaan-3’s mission life is about 14 days, during which it will conduct in-situ scientific experiments and complete all the mission objectives.

Vikram lander’s side panel will quickly unfold after landing to act as a ramp for the rover.

The rover will start investigating the lunar surface after driving down the ramp and emerging from the lander’s belly.


The solar-powered lander and rover will have around two weeks to explore their surroundings, they are not made to withstand the brisk lunar night.

Only the lander, which is in direct contact with Earth, may be reached by the rover and the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter can serve as a backup communications relay, according to ISRO.