India’s ambitious third Moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, is making significant progress as it maneuvers closer to the lunar surface. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced that the spacecraft has achieved a “near-circular orbit” around the moon, marking an important milestone in the mission’s journey. Since its launch on July 14, Chandrayaan-3 has steadily progressed, entering the lunar orbit on August 5 and undergoing two orbit reduction maneuvers on August 6 and 9. With another operation planned for August 16, the spacecraft is scheduled to reach a 100 km orbit, before the landing module separates from the propulsion module. The ultimate goal is to achieve a soft landing on the Moon’s south polar region on August 23.
One of the most critical aspects of the Chandrayaan-3 mission is the landing process. According to ISRO Chairman S Somnath, transitioning the velocity of the lander from 30 km height to the final landing in a controlled manner presents significant challenges. The spacecraft needs to change its orientation from a horizontal position to a vertical one, a mathematical calculation that requires careful precision and extensive simulations. Learning from the challenges encountered during the previous Chandrayaan-2 mission, ISRO has made several improvements, including changes to guidance design and the implementation of new algorithms. Ensuring fuel consumption is optimized and distance calculations are accurate are crucial elements of a successful landing. ISRO is carefully examining all these factors to make a proper landing.
A Follow-On Mission with New Objectives
Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-on mission to Chandrayaan-2 and aims to demonstrate India’s capabilities in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface. The spacecraft consists of an indigenous propulsion module, a lander module, and a rover, with the objective of developing and showcasing new technologies required for future inter-planetary missions. The propulsion module will carry the lander and rover configuration until it reaches the 100 km lunar orbit. Notably, the propulsion module also includes a Spectropolarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload, which will study Earth through spectral and polarimetric measurements from the lunar orbit.
The primary objectives of Chandrayaan-3 are to demonstrate a safe and soft landing on the lunar surface, conduct rover roving on the Moon, and carry out in-situ scientific experiments. The lander is equipped with capabilities for a controlled and gentle landing at a predetermined lunar site. Once landed, the rover will carry out extensive chemical analysis of the Moon’s surface as it traverses the lunar terrain. Both the lander and the rover are equipped with scientific payloads to facilitate various experiments on the lunar surface. By achieving these objectives, the mission aims to advance our understanding of the Moon and pave the way for future space exploration endeavors.
Since its launch on July 14, Chandrayaan-3 has undergone a series of orbit maneuvers to position itself closer to the Moon. Over the span of three weeks, the ISRO has gradually lifted the spacecraft into orbits that are progressively farther away from Earth. In a critical maneuver on August 1, the spacecraft successfully made a slingshot move towards the Moon, escaping Earth’s orbit and embarking on its trajectory towards the lunar vicinity. With each well-executed maneuver, Chandrayaan-3 edges closer to its destination, setting the stage for the upcoming landing and rover activities.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission represents a significant leap forward for India’s space exploration efforts. By demonstrating the country’s ability to land safely on the Moon and conduct sophisticated experiments, ISRO is making strides in technological advancements for inter-planetary missions. The lessons learned from previous missions, such as Chandrayaan-2, have informed the design and execution of Chandrayaan-3, allowing scientists and engineers to address previous challenges and improve the overall mission success rate.
India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission is progressing steadily towards its goal of a safe landing on the Moon’s south polar region. With the spacecraft now in a near-circular orbit, extensive preparations and calculations are underway to ensure a successful transition from horizontal to vertical descent. As the mission progresses, ISRO is committed to overcoming challenges and refining its techniques to make significant contributions to lunar exploration and pave the way for future space exploration endeavors.