In a remarkable achievement, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully achieved the historic landing of Chandrayaan-3’s Lander Module (LM) on the Moon’s surface. The event, which unfolded on August 23, was the culmination of a meticulous journey that began with the LM’s launch on July 14. The ISRO reported that the LM flawlessly followed its intended trajectory and touched down on the lunar surface as planned.
In the lead-up to the momentous landing, ISRO had diligently maintained the mission’s schedule and performed essential checks on its systems. On August 18, a pivotal deboosting operation brought the LM into an orbit of 113 km x 157 km. This maneuver followed the separation of the lander module from the propulsion module, which had been a key step after a 34-day voyage toward the Moon. Subsequently, on August 20, the ISRO executed the final deboost, successfully reducing the LM’s orbit to 25 km x 134 km.
With the Pragyan Rover safely nestled within, the Lander Module is now positioned in a stable orbit of 25 km x 134 km. The eagerly anticipated landing on the Moon was timed for August 23 at 6.04 p.m. IST, with the powered descent set to commence around 5.45 p.m.
A day prior to the crucial soft landing, ISRO confirmed that the mission remained on course. In a statement shared on the social media platform X (previously known as Twitter), the organization assured that regular checks were being conducted on the systems, and all was proceeding smoothly. The Mission Operations Complex (MOX) buzzed with energy and excitement as the anticipation built.
Over the course of the next 14 days, equivalent to one lunar day, the Pragyan Rover will send back valuable images and data from the Moon’s surface. However, it is anticipated that the Rover’s activity will gradually taper off after this period, as its power is derived from solar cells.
The LM’s landing was preceded by a sequence of carefully orchestrated maneuvers. The Vikram, which was equipped with four engines, judiciously cut off two engines during the final 30 km to modulate speed and execute a precise soft landing.
Following this lunar mission, ISRO has an impressive array of projects in its pipeline. Among these is the Aditya-L1 mission, the inaugural Indian space-based observatory dedicated to studying the Sun. Launch preparations are well underway, with a targeted launch date in the first week of September.
Reflecting on international collaboration, during a visit in June, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed agreements with President Joe Biden to become a participant in the Artemis Accords. This engagement paves the way for cooperative endeavors between ISRO and NASA, with plans to jointly transport Indian astronauts to the International Space Station next year.
ISRO’s accomplishments have been notable, especially considering its relatively modest budget in comparison to global counterparts like NASA. In 2020, ISRO projected the cost of the Chandrayaan-3 mission at around $75 million, demonstrating efficiency and innovation. The mission’s launch, originally slated for 2021, was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image Credit: ISRO