Four days after the fateful landing of the Russian lunar probe Luna-25, India’s robotic lander Chandrayaan-3, equipped with heavy equipment, left its orbit and rocketed down to the lunar surface, successfully landing near the south pole of the moon.
The robotic landing has boosted India’s increasingly advanced space program to “space superpower” status, making it only the fourth country, after the United States, China and the former Soviet Union, to land a working-ready spacecraft on the moon and the first to reach the moon. Antarctica.
While orbiting the moon in an elliptical orbit with a high point of 83 miles and a low point of only 15.5 miles, Chandrayaan-3’s brake engines fired at about 8:15 a.m. EST, at an altitude of about 18 miles, to begin the instrumental descent. to the surface.
After descending to an altitude of about 4.5 miles, and slowing from 3,758 mph to about 800 mph, the spacecraft paused the descent for 10 seconds to precisely align with its target landing site.
It then continued the computer-controlled descent to touchdown, sending back a steady stream of images showing its approach to the lunar surface below. Watched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi via a television link, the spacecraft leveled off at about 8:33 am.
Engineers, mission managers, dignitaries and guests at the Indian Space Research Organization’s control center burst into cheers and applause.
“We have achieved a soft landing on the moon,” said ISRO President Shri Somanath. “Yes, on the moon!”
Modi then addressed the ISRO team, speaking in Hindi but adding in English, “India is now on the moon!”
“Success belongs to all mankind,” he said. “It will help other countries’ future moon missions. I am confident that all countries in the world… can all aspire to the moon and beyond. … The sky is not the limit!”
The dramatic landing of Chandrayaan-3, which was broadcast live on YouTube and the website of the Indian Space Agency, was the culmination of a determined four-year effort to recover from the disaster.Moments before landing in 2019.
It seemed at first that Russia might steal some of the limelight from India with the planned landing on Monday of the Luna-25 probe, Russia’s first attempt to land on the moon in nearly 50 years.
But during the weekend,Russia’s federal space agency, Roscosmos, stated that the spacecraft “no longer existed” after “hitting the surface of the moon.”
In contrast, Chandrayaan-3’s orbital adjustments were made according to the book, resulting in a lunar dawn landing at the landing site. Designed to operate for a full two-week lunar “day,” Chandrayaan-3 consists of the solar-powered Vikram lander and an 83-pound six-wheeled rover called Pragyan that is carried to the surface inside the lander.
The lander is equipped with instruments to measure temperature, thermal conductivity, seismic activity, and the plasma environment. It also carries a NASA laser reflector array to help accurately measure the Moon’s distance from Earth.
The rover, which has its own solar array and is designed to roll downhill to the surface from its perch inside the lander, also has instruments, including two spectrometers to help determine the elemental composition of lunar rocks and soil at the landing site.
While science is a primary goal, the primary goal of the Chandrayaan-3 mission is to demonstrate soft landing technology and the rover as critical stepping stones for more ambitious future flights to deep space targets.
“The state corporation Roscosmos congratulates the Indian colleagues on the successful landing of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft,” the Russian space agency said in a post on the Telegram app. “Exploration of the moon is important for all mankind, and in the future it may become a platform for deep space exploration.”
The mission is the first to reach the moon’s south polar region, an area of growing interest due to the possibility of accessing ice deposits in permanently shadowed craters. The ice provides a potential source of air, water, and even hydrogen rocket fuel for future astronauts.
The possibility of ice deposits has sparked a new space race of sorts. NASA’s Artemis program plans to send astronauts to the Antarctic region in the next few years, and China is working on plans to launch its own astronauts, or “astronauts,” to the moon’s south pole at the end of the decade.
India is clearly interested, as are Japan, the European Space Agency and several private companies that are building their own robotic landers under contracts with NASA as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services programme.
Correction: The initial version of this story says that the Chandrayaan-3 lander was launched on August 14th. The correct date is July 14th.
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