The completion of the Chandrayaan-3 mission by the Indian Space Research Agency (ISRO) on Tuesday is set to have significant ramifications for India’s standing as a spacefaring nation and the trajectory of lunar exploration.
This mission, aimed at landing a spacecraft on the moon’s southern pole, has the potential to propel India to the status of the fourth country to achieve a lunar landing. Launched on July 14 from India’s primary spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, the spacecraft has transitioned through progressively broader Earth orbits, eventually entering lunar orbit, becoming a source of national pride.
Global attention turned to this endeavor when Russia’s attempt to secure a South Pole lunar landing ended in failure, further enhancing the Chandrayaan-3’s international significance.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission
Delving deeper into India’s ambitious lunar pursuit, the Chandrayaan-3 mission is directed at the moon’s southern pole, a region containing water ice with potential implications for future lunar undertakings like oxygen and water sourcing or even establishing a more permanent lunar settlement.
A successful landing would usher in a two-week operational period for Chandrayaan-3, during which a range of experiments, including mineral composition analysis via a spectrometer, is planned. The lander for the Chandrayaan-3, standing at around 2 meters tall and weighing over 1,700 kg (3,747.86 lb), akin to the mass of an SUV, is equipped to deploy a smaller lunar rover weighing 26 kg.
NASA administrator, Bill Nelson, conveyed his anticipation for the insights to be gained from this Indian mission, underlining the global interest it has garnered.
Looking back at previous efforts and their challenges, India’s prior attempt, Chandrayaan-2, faltered in its 2019 endeavor to reach the lunar South Pole. Though an orbiter was successfully deployed, the lander and rover met their demise in a crash close to the area where Chandrayaan-3 aims to touch down.
Negotiating the rough topography of the South Pole complicates the landing process. ISRO scientists have made adjustments to increase the likelihood of success, including a landing zone expansion system and enhancements to the lander’s durability.
Meanwhile, Russia’s recent lunar mission met with failure, and a Japanese private space startup’s April attempt also ended in a botched lunar landing. The implications at stake are considerable. A triumphant mission would position India as the fourth nation to successfully land on the moon, trailing only the former USSR, the US, and China.
This achievement aligns conveniently with upcoming national elections and bolsters India’s identity as a space-capable nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is fostering investment in private space ventures and satellite-oriented enterprises. India aims to boost its private space sector’s share of the global launch market by a significant margin within the next decade.
Modi highlighted the significance of ISRO’s moon mission, describing it as a fresh chapter in India’s space saga, one that amplifies the aspirations of all Indians. ISRO’s plan includes broadcasting the planned landing starting from 1720 IST (1150 GMT) on Wednesday.