India’s Chandrayaan-3 Mission Aims for Lunar Soft Landing on Moon’s South Pole

India's Chandrayaan-3 Mission Aims for Lunar Soft Landing on Moon's South Pole
India's Chandrayaan-3 Mission Aims for Lunar Soft Landing on Moon's South Pole

India’s ambitious Chandrayaan-3 mission took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh at 2:35 P.M. Carried by ISRO’s most powerful rocket, the Launch Vehicle Mark III, this mission seeks to achieve a soft landing on the Moon’s South Pole. If successful, it will establish India as the fourth nation to accomplish such a landing and the first country in the world to achieve this feat in the challenging terrain of the Moon’s South Pole.

Chandrayaan-3 is a continuation of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, which aimed to achieve a soft landing on the Moon’s south pole. To support the moon lander Vikram, the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle), also known as Launch Vehicle Mark III, was employed. With a height of approximately 5 meters, this launcher facilitated the safe descent of the previous mission’s lander.

The spacecraft is expected to touch down on the lunar surface on 23 August, following a voyage lasting over 40 days. Chandrayaan-3 is set to land at the Moon’s South Pole, where its predecessor, Chandrayaan-1, made a groundbreaking discovery of water molecules, stunning the world with its remarkable success.

ISRO has made several modifications to enhance the reliability of Chandrayaan-3 compared to its predecessor. The mission consists of a Lander named Vikram, in honor of Vikram Sarabhai, the Rover Pragyan, and a propulsion module. The Vikram Lander has been increased in weight by 280 kg compared to its previous version and carries additional fuel to remain on its intended path to the lunar surface.

The total weight of the craft, including the propulsion module, is 3,900 kg, with the lander and rover together weighing 1,752 kg. This places the mission close to the maximum capacity of India’s strongest rocket, the GSLV MK III.

Chandrayaan-3 encompasses three phases: the Earth-Centric Phase, the lunar-transfer phase, and the Moon-Centric Phase. As the mission achieves a safe landing on the moon, the Pragyan Rover will be deployed to conduct explorations. The six-wheeled rover, powered by solar energy, carries two spectrometers to analyze the moon’s surface composition. It will traverse the landing area for approximately 14 Earth Days, equivalent to one lunar day.

The Vikram Lander utilized in Chandrayaan-3 is equipped with four scientific instruments. These instruments include a seismometer designed to detect moonquakes, a device studying heat flow through the lunar surface, an instrument aimed at understanding the plasma environment around the moon, and a retro-reflector that assists in studying the gravitational interaction between the moon and other celestial bodies.

During touchdown, the lander will maintain a horizontal velocity of less than 5 meters per second, a vertical velocity of less than two meters per second, and a slope angle of less than 120 degrees.

To date, only three countries—the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China—have achieved successful lunar landings. With its sights set on becoming the fourth country to safely land on the Moon’s surface and the first nation to land on the Moon’s South Pole, India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission represents a significant step in lunar exploration and scientific discovery.