The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has released a video of Chandrayaan-3's rover Pragyan exploring the lunar surface on August 26, 2023. PM Narendra Modi named the lunar landing sites Shiv Shakti Point and Tiranga Point for Chandrayaan-2's crash site. Isro has confirmed the successful verification of scheduled rover movements of about 8 meters, and two key rover payloads, LIBS and APXS, are now functioning.
An Indian spacecraft, Chandrayaan-3, successfully landed on the south pole of the moon at 6:04 p.m. on August 23, 2023. India's third Moon mission, signifying an important milestone in lunar exploration and India's position as a space power, The landing was celebrated by scientists and officials, with people across India setting off firecrackers and dancing in the streets. The lander's leg and shadow were captured in the spacecraft's images. Although rough terrain makes a South Pole landing difficult, the region's ice could provide fuel, oxygen, and drinking water for future missions. Several people across the globe have congratulated India and ISRO. The United Nations leadership congratulated India on the success of its Chandrayaan-3 moon mission, calling it a "giant step" for humanity and a "great achievement." The attempt comes only days after Russia's unmanned Luna-25 spacecraft lost control and collided with the Moon.
Isro chairperson S. Somanath recently said the changes to the current mission were “failure-based.” He said, “Instead of a success-based design in Chandrayaan.-2, we are doing a failure-based design in Chandrayaan-3—we are looking at what can go wrong and how to deal with it.”
Historical overview of ISRO's major programs –satellites, launch vehicles, and planetary exploration
- Aryabhata (1975); Marked India's entry into the space era and conducted experiments in X-ray astronomy, aeronomics, and solar physics.
- Bhaskar-1 and Bhaskar-2; are experimental remote-sensing satellites laying the groundwork for the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite system.
Launch Vehicle Programmes
- 1963 Nike Apache; initial rocket launch; 'sounding rocket' experiment
- SLV-3 (1980); India's first launch vehicle; entry into space-faring nations
- PSLV; Reliable and versatile workhorse that enabled critical space missions.
- GSLV Mk-III; Heaviest launch vehicle; used for Chandrayaan-2 and Chandrayaan-3 missions.
Planetary Exploration Programmes
- Chandrayaan-1 (2008); Detected water on the moon, the fifth country to reach the lunar surface.
- Mangalyaan (2013); The first interplanetary mission reached Mars orbit, showcasing interplanetary technology.
- Chandrayaan-2 (2019); Aimed for lunar exploration but faced a setback with the lander's soft landing.
- Chandrayaan-3 (2023); Achieved a successful soft landing on the moon, contributing to India's lunar capabilities.
CHANDRAYAAN-3: Launch, Challenges, Aim, instruments, etc
India's Chandrayaan-3 moon mission was launched on July 14, 2023, marking India's second attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon. The Chandrayaan, which means "moon vehicle" in Hindi and Sanskrit, is expected to remain functional for two weeks, conducting experiments and analyzing the lunar surface's mineral composition. The landing has given India confidence to extend its reach to possible voyages to Mars and Venus. India is also planning to launch a mission to study the sun in September and a human space flight, with preparations expected to be ready by 2024. The launch is expected to boost India's reputation for cost-competitive space engineering, with a budget of about 6.15 billion rupees ($74 million), less than the cost of producing the 2013 Hollywood space thriller "Gravity." Preparations for the landing were feverish, with prayers held at places of worship and mosques.
Landing on the Moon's South Pole presents significant challenges due to its challenging terrain, extreme temperatures, and areas of permanent shadow, unlike previous spacecraft landing near the lunar equator. The South Pole also lacks sunlight. ISRO is exploring the Moon's South Pole for several reasons, including water resources, scientific discoveries, and Earth's history. The region is believed to contain significant amounts of water molecules trapped as ice in shadowed craters, which is crucial for planning future human missions and utilizing lunar resources. The harsh environment and shadowed areas offer a unique window into the moon's history and the early solar system, providing valuable insights into celestial bodies' origins and evolution. The Moon is believed to have formed from debris from a massive impact between a Mars-sized object and early Earth, and exploring the lunar South Pole can shed light on the materials and conditions during this critical event. ISRO's global collaborations with NASA and the Indian-Japan LUPEX mission aim to explore the South Pole further.
The Chandrayaan-1 mission aims to discover the southern polar region of the moon, which is believed to contain water ice. The mission also discovered evidence of underground lava tubes, which could provide a safe habitat for humans. The mission also explores the magma ocean hypothesis, which suggests the moon formed from an impact that led to surface melting. Contrary to the belief of lunar dormancy, the mission revealed the moon's dynamic nature, with volcanic vents, lava ponds, and channels as old as 100 million years. The mission also observed solar microflares beyond the active region, analyzing elemental abundance in the solar corona. The CLASS X-ray fluorescence experiment mapped approximately 95% of the lunar surface, a significant improvement from previous missions. The new mission will further explore the abundant oxygen in mineral oxides on the moon, potentially utilising it as fuel for future space missions.
Chandrayaan 3 is a lunar mission involving various instruments and experiments. These include the Radio Anatomy of Moon-bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA), Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE), the Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA), the LASER Retroreflector Array (LRA), the LASER-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS), and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). RAMBHA studies electrons and ions near the moon's surface, while ChaSTE focuses on the thermal properties of the lunar surface near the polar region. ILSA measures lunar quakes and analyses the moon's crust and mantle through seismic activity.
ISRO aims to secure a 9% share of the global space market by 2030, indicating its ambition for international prominence. Economic growth is predicted to reach $100 billion by 2040, exceeding the initial $40 billion figure. ISRO's success with initiatives like Chandrayaan-3 opens doors for enhanced international cooperation. However, financial constraints, such as declining budget allocations and a decline in students pursuing advanced space studies, pose challenges. Despite these challenges, ISRO's global space ranking is modest, ranking only 2% of the global space economy. The future of ISRO presents both opportunities and challenges.
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