The highly anticipated Chandrayaan-3 mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is scheduled to touch down on the lunar surface on the evening of August 23. Approximately 22 days after its launch, Chandrayaan-3 is set to achieve a soft landing on the moon’s surface. With this achievement, India is poised to make history by becoming the fourth country in the world to do so. Notably, this mission will also mark India’s first successful landing on the lunar south pole.
Prior to the landing, ISRO has completed its preparations. The team of space scientists has significantly mitigated the risks associated with the “last minutes of terror” during soft landing. During the landing, various options will remain available that can be used to ensure a safe landing in case of any emergency situation. Amidst this, it’s important to understand the details of the Chandrayaan-3 mission – its objectives, landing site, and potential changes in landing location.
What is Chandrayaan-3?
According to ISRO, the Chandrayaan-3 mission is the next phase of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, which aims to land on the moon’s surface and conduct testing. It comprises a propulsion module, a lander, and a rover. The primary focus of Chandrayaan-3 is the safe landing on the moon’s surface. Lessons learned from the Chandrayaan-2 mission have been applied to make necessary improvements for a successful landing this time.
The mission took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on July 14 at 2:35 PM and, if all goes according to plan, is set to land on the moon’s surface on August 23. The success of this mission will elevate India to become the fourth country globally to achieve a soft landing on the moon, following the United States, Russia, and China.
Choice of Lunar Landing Location
Chandrayaan-3 is slated to land near the lunar south pole, specifically at a latitude of approximately 68 degrees south. This location is notably farther south compared to any previous moon landing. Most missions thus far have landed in the equatorial region due to the abundance of sunlight. However, the southern region offers unique advantages, and Chandrayaan-3 aims to explore this uncharted territory.
Enhancements for Soft Landing
Numerous enhancements have been made in Chandrayaan-3 compared to Chandrayaan-2. The targeted landing area has been expanded to 4.2 kilometers in length and 2.5 kilometers in width. Chandrayaan-3 is equipped with four engines along with laser Doppler velocimetry, enabling precise control of altitude and orientation during all landing phases.
ISRO has also strengthened the lander’s legs to withstand unexpected impacts and has incorporated additional instruments, updated software, and a larger fuel tank. These provisions will be crucial in case last-minute changes are required. S. Somnath, head of ISRO, mentioned that the Chandrayaan-2 mission provided valuable insights, driving significant improvements for Chandrayaan-3.
Flexibility in Landing Site
ISRO has ensured flexibility in landing site selection for Chandrayaan-3. The target area has a radius of approximately one kilometer, offering multiple safe landing options. If the initial chosen site is unsuitable, the mission can swiftly transition to an alternative location. Chandrayaan-3 features four engines instead of five on Chandrayaan-2, reducing its weight.
Chandrayaan-3’s meticulous preparations and improvements in various aspects of the mission indicate ISRO’s commitment to ensuring a successful lunar landing. With ISRO’s continued dedication and its willingness to adapt, Chandrayaan-3 has a high chance of being another significant achievement in India’s space exploration journey.