India’s third lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3, has achieved a historic feat by successfully landing on the Moon’s south pole on Wednesday, August 23, 2023. The mission, which comprises an orbiter, a lander and a rover, is the first to explore the uncharted region of the lunar surface, where scientists believe there could be frozen water and other valuable resources.
A proud moment for India and the world
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced the successful landing of the lander module, named Vikram, at 6:04 pm IST (12:34 GMT) after a series of complex braking manoeuvres. The lander carried a 26 kg rover, named Pragyaan, which will soon roll out and begin its exploration of the lunar terrain.
The landing was witnessed by millions of people across India and the world, who tuned in to watch the live broadcast of the historic event. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated ISRO and the entire nation for achieving this remarkable feat, which he said was a testament to India’s scientific prowess and determination.
“India has made history today. We have become the first country to land on the Moon’s south pole and the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon. This is a proud moment for every Indian and a milestone for humanity. I salute the ISRO team and all the scientists who have worked tirelessly to make this dream come true,” Modi said in a televised address.
The Prime Minister also spoke to the ISRO chief Sreedhara Panicker Somanath and the mission director Ritu Karidhal, who were at the mission control centre in Bengaluru, and praised them for their leadership and dedication. He also interacted with some of the young scientists who were part of the Chandrayaan-3 team and encouraged them to pursue their passion for space exploration.
A challenging mission with a high reward
Chandrayaan-3 was launched on July 15, 2023 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. The mission cost 6.1 billion rupees ($75 million; £58 million) and weighed 3,900 kg. The orbiter module, which will remain in orbit around the Moon for at least a year, carries eight scientific instruments to study various aspects of the lunar environment, such as its topography, mineralogy, exosphere and radiation.
The lander and rover modules, which have a lifespan of 14 Earth days (one lunar day), carry four instruments each to conduct experiments on the lunar surface. The main objectives of the lander are to demonstrate a soft landing near the south pole and to measure the thermal properties and seismic activity of the region. The rover’s main objectives are to perform in-situ analysis of the lunar soil and to test its mobility and communication capabilities.
The south pole of the Moon is considered to be a highly promising area for future exploration and exploitation, as it is believed to contain large deposits of water ice in permanently shadowed craters. Water is not only essential for life support, but also for producing rocket fuel and oxygen. The south pole also offers a unique vantage point for observing the Earth and other celestial bodies.
However, landing on the south pole also poses several challenges, such as extreme temperatures, varying gravity, rugged terrain and communication difficulties. ISRO had carefully studied the data from its previous lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, which failed to make a soft landing in 2019 due to a technical glitch. The agency had also conducted simulation exercises to fix the errors and improve the performance of Chandrayaan-3.
A legacy of lunar exploration
Chandrayaan-3 is India’s third lunar mission after Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Chandrayaan-2 in 2019. Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first lunar mission, which discovered the presence of water molecules on the parched lunar surface and established that the Moon has an atmosphere during daytime. Chandrayaan-2 was India’s second lunar mission, which comprised an orbiter, a lander and a rover. The orbiter continues to circle and study the Moon even today, but the lander-rover crashed during touchdown.
With Chandrayaan-3, India has joined an elite club of nations that have successfully landed on the Moon. The US was the first country to achieve this feat in 1966 with its Surveyor 1 mission. The former Soviet Union followed suit in 1966 with its Luna 9 mission. China became the third country to land on the Moon in 2013 with its Chang’e 3 mission. China also became the first country to land on the far side of the Moon in 2019 with its Chang’e 4 mission.
India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission has received praise and appreciation from various countries and organisations around the world. NASA congratulated ISRO for its achievement and expressed its interest in collaborating with India for future lunar exploration. The European Space Agency (ESA) also lauded ISRO for its accomplishment and said that it was looking forward to the scientific results from the mission. Several Bollywood celebrities also took to their social media accounts to congratulate ISRO and the nation for making history.