Chennai, Aug 23, 2023, IANS
Chennai, Aug 23 (IANS): India’s moon lander successfully set its four legs softly and safely on the lunar soil on Wednesday evening as planned, and became the fourth nation in the world to achieve the feat.
The lander landed near the South Pole of the moon after travelling about 3.84 lakh km for over 40 days.
With the landing, a major portion of the Rs 600 crore Chandrayaan-3 mission has been realised. The remaining portion is the moon rover rolling down from the lander, moving around and doing the programmed experiments.
The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft comprises a propulsion module (weighing 2,148 kg), a lander (1,723.89 kg) and a rover (26 kg).
According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the moon rover has Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) for deriving the elemental composition in the vicinity of the landing site.
On its part, the lander too will carry out the tasks assigned to it with its payloads: Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) to measure the thermal conductivity and temperature; Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) for measuring the seismicity around the landing site; Langmuir Probe (LP) to estimate the plasma density and its variations. A passive Laser Retroreflector Array from NASA is accommodated for lunar laser ranging studies.
The mission life of the lander and the rover is 1 Lunar day or 14 Earth days, ISRO said
The propulsion module has Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload to study the spectral and Polari metric measurements of Earth from the lunar orbit.
The life of the payload carried by the propulsion module post ejection of the lander is between three and six months.
The 19 minutes of suspense and excitement began at 5.45 p.m., as planned earlier, and ended at 6.05 p.m. with the lander touching down on the lunar soil.
It may be recalled that the Vikram lander that was part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission a couple of years back had crashed on the moon while it was on the last phase of landing.
The soft landing is a tricky issue as it involves a series of complex manoeuvres consisting of rough and fine braking.
Imaging of the landing site region prior to landing will be done for finding safe and hazard-free zones.
The powered descent of the lander in a horizontal position began from an altitude of about 30 km at about 5.45 p.m. The automatic landing sequence got activated.
During the rough breaking phase the lander’s speed will be brought down from 1,680 metres per second to 358 metres per second. The altitude will be brought down 7.4 km above the moon.
The next phase was the altitude hold phase where the altitude was brought down to 6.8 km.
The officials seated at the Mission Operations Complex at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), Bengaluru, had their eyes glued to their monitors.
The lander’s position changed to vertical and the craft hovered 150 metres over the moon, taking pictures and surveying the landing zone to decide on a safe landing spot.
Then the safe landing happened with two engines on out of the four.
The primary communication channel will be the Mission Operations Complex at ISTRAC, Bengaluru, to Chandrayaan-3 Propulsion Module which in turn would talk to the lander and the rover.
Recently, the moon lander established communication links with the Chandrayaan-2 mission’s Orbiter that is circling the moon since 2019 and thereby having a backup talking channel.
Meanwhile, the propulsion module of Chandrayaan-3 is continuing to go around the moon for some more period with its payload Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planetary Earth (SHAPE) doing its job.
The Chandrayaan-3 was put into orbit on July 14 in a copybook style by India's heavy lift rocket LVM3. The spacecraft completed orbiting around the Earth and headed towards the moon on August 1.
PM Modi dials ISRO chief to congratulate him, team for Chandrayaan-3 success:
Prime MInister Narendra Modi, who watched the landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the moon from Johannesburg on Wednesday, later called Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief S. Somanath to congratulate him and his entire team for the success of the mission, saying that he will meet them personally soon.
Modi, who's in Johannesburg for the BRICS summit, told the ISRO chief, "Your name is Somanath, which is also related to moon. Your family must be very happy. From my side, many congratulations and best wishes to you and to your entire team. Soon I will congratulate you all. Many hearty congratulations."
The phone call from the Prime Minister to the ISRO chief came soon after the success of Chandrayaan-3 as India’s moon lander successfully set its four legs softly and safely on the lunar soil on Wednesday evening as planned, becoming the fourth nation in the world to achieve the feat after Russia, the US and China.
India lands on moon, triggers talks on global space race
It's not bravado or pat on the back by any political leader. Experts around the world are now saying the obvious -- India has joined the global space race.
"India becomes the first country to land a spacecraft on the moon’s South Pole, a rugged region where deep craters lie in permanent shadow and where ice could provide water, oxygen and fuel for future missions," said 'The Guardian' in a special article penned by its science editor Ian Sample.
The 'New York Times' wrote, "India's Chandrayaan-3 mission is set to 'begin exploring an area of the moon that was yet to be visited and has water ice that could be a resource for future missions."
The NYT headline is quite loaded and could flatter ego: "In Latest Moon Race, India Lands First in Southern Polar Region."
"India’s aim to land on moon’s South Pole signals ambition to join global space race" -- 'South China Morning Post' said in an article before the successful landing by
Vikram, part of India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, that dropped steadily on its thrusters to the rock below, slowed to a hover as it approached the ground, and finally came to a rest on the dusty terrain.
The Guardian article also said: "The global space launch market is expected to grow from $9 billion this year to more than $20 billion in 2030. Beyond satellite launches, big space agencies including NASA, the European Space Agency, Russia and China are gearing up... There will be a place for many countries in going back to the moon.”
Experts feel scientists at ISRO and the Indian leadership took a risk to choose one of the moon’s poles as its destination. This was a "tougher prospect than landing near the equator", and hence the grand success is also "much sweeter".
Among others, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated India.
Putin congratulated India in a message to PM Narendra Modi published on the 'Kremlin' website.
"This is a big step forward in space exploration and of course a testament to the impressive progress made by India in the field of science and technology," said the Russian leader who stayed away from the ongoing BRICS summit in Johannesburg, but participated virtually.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson congratulated the ISRO on the landing on X (formerly Twitter).
"Congratulations to India on being the 4th country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon... We’re glad to be your partner on this mission!"
Notably, Russia’s Luna-25, which was launched less than two weeks ago, had been on track to get there first before the lander crashed from orbit.
A Reuters report in 'The South China Morning Post' said, "The seemingly sudden competition to get to a previously unexplored region of the moon recalls the space race of the 1960s, when the United States and the Soviet Union competed. But now space is a business, and the moon’s south pole is a prize because of the water ice there that planners expect could support a future lunar colony, mining operations and eventual missions to Mars."
An article in 'The Washington Post' a few days back said, "The moon may be dead and desolate, but it is now the hottest real estate in the solar system, generating interest from countries across the globe eager to demonstrate their technological prowess and aid humanity in understanding its closest celestial neighbour."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared his ambitions when he said in his first globally televised message after the landing from Johannesburg, "The human-centric approach that we represent has been welcomed universally. Our moon mission is also based on the same human-centric approach.
"Therefore, this success belongs to all of humanity. And it will help moon missions by other countries in the future. I am confident that all countries in the world, including those from the Global South, are capable of achieving such feats. We can all aspire for the moon and beyond."
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of the books ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’, and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. Views expressed are personal)
What an incredible moment: Sundar Pichai on India’s historic Moon feat
Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday congratulated the Indian space agency and the country for the successful landing of Chandrayaan 3 on the Moon.
“What an incredible moment! Congratulations to @isro for the successful landing of #Chandrayaan3 on the moon,” he said in a post on X.com.
“Today India became the first country to successfully achieve a soft landing on the southern polar region of the moon,” he added.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) established a communication link with its moon lander that is now on the lunar soil.
“The communication link is established between the Chandrayaan-3 Lander and MOX-ISTRAC, Bengaluru,” ISRO said.
Earlier, ISRO had said the moon lander had established communication links with the Chandrayaan-2 mission’s orbiter that is circling the moon since 2019.
In other words, the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter will be the backup communication channel for ISRO with the lander.
The mission life of the lander and the rover is 1 Lunar day or 14 Earth days, ISRO said. The Chandrayaan-3 was put into orbit on July 14 in a copybook style by India's heavy lift rocket LVM3. The spacecraft completed orbiting around the Earth and headed towards the moon on August 1.
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