India's moon moment is here: A small step for Chandrayaan-3, a giant leap for our country

The Vikram lander has made history by becoming the first to land in this region of the moon. The lander and rover have a mission life of one lunar day (14 Earth days). India’s moon moment is finally here.

Chandrayaan-3 kept its tryst with destiny, soft landing on the lunar South Pole at 6.04 pm on Wednesday a month and nine days after its take-off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.

The moon’s South Pole, where it made the landing, is a permanently shadowed region that scientists believe is rich in resources and can offer ideal landing sites for manned missions in the future.

Chandrayaan-3 Mission:
I reached my destination
and you too!’
: Chandrayaan-3

Chandrayaan-3 has successfully
soft-landed on the moon!.

Congratulations, India!#Chandrayaan_3#Ch3
— ISRO (@isro) August 23, 2023

The Vikram lander has made history by becoming the first to land in this region of the moon. The lander and rover have a mission life of one lunar day (14 Earth days) during which it will conduct on-site experiments.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated ISRO on the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the moon. 

Historic day for India’s space sector. Congratulations to @isro for the remarkable success of Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 23, 2023

The powered braking of Vikram lander began with the retro firing of four thruster engines to reduce speed. Then came what scientists termed 17 minutes of terror — an entirely automated process that needed to go right based on complete instructions fed to Vikram earlier in the evening.

Close to 150 lunar missions have been run till date by various countries led by the USA and the erstwhile Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). Twelve men have gone to the Moon between 1969 and 1972 — Apollo-11 to 17 (Apollo 13 failed to land) — on six successful Apollo missions.

Interestingly, the South Pole is the region NASA is targeting with the return-to-the-moon Artemis III mission that aims to take astronauts to the Moon and back in 2025.

Key facts to know about the lander and rover and the on-site experiments that are planned:

The lander has a mission life of one Lunar day, which is equivalent to 14 Earth days. It has a mass of 1749.86 kg including Rover.

There are four scientific payloads in it — Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA) will measure the near-surface plasma (ions and electrons) density and its changes with time.

Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) will carry out the measurements of the thermal properties of the lunar surface near the polar region.

ALSO READ | Soft landing done, Chandrayaan-3 will now help build a ‘home’ for India on the Moon

Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) will measure seismicity around the landing site and delineate the structure of the lunar crust and mantle.

Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) from NASA is a passive experiment to understand the dynamics of the Moon system.  LRA will have seven sensors including Lander Hazard Detection & Avoidance Camera.

Lander has six mechanisms, which are Lander leg, Rover Ramp (Primary and Secondary), Rover, ILSA, Rambha & Chaste Payloads, Umbilical connector Protection Mechanism, and X- Band Antenna Rover: Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) Propulsion Module for qualitative and quantitative elemental analysis.

LIBS will help derive the chemical composition and infer mineralogical composition to further our understanding of the lunar surface.

Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) will determine the elemental composition such as magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Potassium, Calcium, Titanium and Iron) of lunar soil and rocks around the lunar landing site.

Chandrayaan-3 mission timeline  

July 14: LVM3 M4 vehicle launches Chandrayaan-3 into orbit from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at 2.35 pm. Chandrayaan-3 starts its journey to the Moon with initial Earth orbits.

July 15: First orbit-raising manoeuvre (Earthbound firing-1) performed from ISTRAC/ISRO, Bengaluru. The spacecraft is in 41762 km x 173 km orbit.

July 17: Second orbit-raising manoeuvre performed. Spacecraft is in 41603 km x 226 km orbit.

ALSO READ | Chandrayaan-3: Eight ways a home on the Moon can help humans

July 22: Third orbit-raising manoeuvre completed using earth-bound perigee firing.

July 25: Fourth orbit-raising manoeuvre. Spacecraft is in 71351 km x 233 km orbit.

August 1: Translunar Injection carried out; propulsion module out into translunar orbit. Orbit achieved is 288 km x 3,69,328 km.

August 5: Lunar-Orbit Insertion of Chandrayaan-3 performed. Orbit around the Moon is 164 km x 18074 km, as intended.

August 6: Second Lunar Bound Phase (LBN). With this, the spacecraft is in a 170 km x 4313 km orbit around the Moon. Video of the Moon released as viewed by Chandrayaan-3 during lunar orbit insertion.

August 9: Chandrayaan-3’s orbit reduced to 174 km x 1,437 km.

August 14: Mission is in orbit circularisation phase after another manoeuvre. The spacecraft is in 151 km x 179 km orbit.

August 16: Spacecraft brought down to an orbit of 153 km x 163 km after firing is completed.

August 17: Lander module with the rover module attached to it separates from the propulsion module. Propulsion module continues its 100 Km X 100 Km orbit around the Moon.

August 19: Deboostng of the lander module to reduce its orbit. The lander module is in 113 km x 157 km orbit around the Moon.

August 20: One more orbit-reduction deboosting carried out on lander module de-boosting. The lander module is in 25 km x 134 km orbit.

August 21: Two-way communication link established between Chandrayaan-3 lander module and Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, Pradhan. Latter welcomes it saying ‘Welcome, buddy!’ Mission Operations Complex (MOX) now has more ways to communicate with the lander module.

August 22: Images captured by the Lander Position Detection Camera (LPDC) of the Chandrayaan-3 mission from an altitude of about 70 km released. Systems are undergoing regular checks. Smooth sailing is continuing.

August 23: India creates history! Achieved safe soft-landing as Vikram lander touched down exactly at 6.04 pm to be the first ever to do so at the Moon’s south pole.

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