From Earth to the Moon: Chandrayaan-3’s Historic Landing on the Lunar South Pole and Future Explorations for India

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India created history on August 23 with the successful soft-landing of the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s Vikram lander on the challenging terrain of the Lunar South Pole region—a historic feat for the country’s space community and the entire nation.

India became the first country to accomplish a spacecraft landing near the lunar south pole, deploy a rover in that vicinity, land on the moon’s far side, and successfully soft-land on the Moon in the 21st century.

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, extended his heartfelt congratulations to the scientists and engineers who turned an audacious dream into a concrete achievement. S. Somanath, the Director of ISRO,  declared, “India is on the moon,” capturing the essence of this historic feat. 

The tension was palpable during the final phase of the landing, often referred to as the “20 or 17 minutes of terror.” The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) exhibited its meticulous planning and innovative autonomy as the Vikram lander executed an Automatic Landing Sequence (ALS) within 20 minutes of landing, ensuring a gentle landing on the lunar terrain.

The Chandrayaan-3’s mission is to navigate and explore the lunar south pole region, which is abundant with ice-laden landscape, which could significantly influence forthcoming lunar ventures. It plans to use intricate spectrometer analyses to unveil the mineral composition of the lunar surface.

Chandrayaan-3 unfurled a new chapter in lunar exploration on July 14 this year. The trail to Chandrayaan-3’s victory finds its genesis in ISRO’s previous endeavors. Chandrayaan-2, propelled by a Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3) in a triumvirate of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover, was launched with aspirations high. Scheduled to land in September 2019 and unveil its Pragyan rover, the mission took an unforeseen turn. When descending, the lander veered off course, ultimately crash-landing.

As the Chandrayaan-3 mission advanced, a unique alliance emerged. The European Space Tracking Network (ESTRACK), managed by the European Space Agency (ESA), offered its support. This collaboration envisions a reciprocal partnership wherein ESA will provide tracking support for ISRO’s upcoming endeavors like India’s inaugural human spaceflight program, Gaganyaan, and the solar research mission Aditya-L1. The tracking stations of ISRO will extend similar assistance to future ESA missions.

Chandrayaan-3’s grand mission is guided by three fundamental goals—the gentle and safe landing of the lander on the lunar surface; showcasing the rover’s prowess as it ventures into the moon’s unknown territories; and the meticulous analysis of lunar materials to decode the moon’s origin story and unique composition.

As the excitement of the successful landing of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft takes hold, all eyes are now fixed on the next phase—the eagerly anticipated deployment of the Pragyan rover. Powered by the sun’s light, Pragyan is equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and instruments. Pragyan is geared up for in-depth analyses that promise to unveil the moon’s well-kept secrets through seismic explorations, detailed thermal investigations, and intricate studies of the lunar surface’s minerals.

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