As India eagerly awaits the soft landing of its third moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, G Madhavan Nair, the former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), shared insights on the significance of the mission and the challenges associated with its final moments. Chandrayaan-3’s scheduled soft landing on the moon’s south pole on August 23, 2023, marks a significant milestone in India’s planetary exploration efforts.
Significance of Chandrayaan-3 Mission
G Madhavan Nair highlighted the importance of Chandrayaan-3 for India’s space program. He stated, “This is going to be the most significant milestone for planetary exploration.” While India had previously attempted a lunar landing, the mission had faced challenges. Since then, ISRO has conducted extensive studies, simulations, and design enhancements to improve the mission’s success probability.
Challenging Moments in the Landing Process
Nair emphasized that the final 20 minutes of Chandrayaan-3’s landing process, involving the powered descent from lunar orbit to the lunar surface, are crucial and challenging. He likened this phase to a historic moment, stating, “It is only the USA, Russia, and China that have succeeded so far to land on the south pole of the Moon.” Nair acknowledged the complexities and uncertainties associated with lunar landings, and the significance of ensuring a safe and accurate landing.
Navigating the Landing Operation
Detailing the landing process, Nair explained the complexity of reducing the spacecraft’s velocity from 1.6 kilometers per second to a few hundred meters per second. The spacecraft then maneuvers at a low altitude, capturing images of the lunar surface to identify a safe landing spot. The rugged terrain of the lunar south pole adds to the challenge, requiring careful selection of a suitable landing site. This intricate operation occurs in the final minutes before the spacecraft’s descent to the surface.
Once successfully landed, Chandrayaan-3’s rover is expected to conduct investigations in the southern polar region for approximately 14 days. The rover’s tasks include collecting data on minerals, identifying water sources, and studying helium three. The mission aims to enhance scientific understanding of the moon’s composition and resources.
ISRO’s Update and Preparedness
ISRO‘s latest update indicates that the Chandrayaan-3 mission remains on schedule, with regular systems checks in progress. Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the mission’s development phase commenced in January 2020, and the spacecraft was launched on July 14 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
Chandrayaan-3’s upcoming soft landing on the moon’s south pole represents a significant achievement for India’s space program. G Madhavan Nair’s insights shed light on the mission’s complexities and the historic importance of its successful execution. As the country holds its breath for the landing, Chandrayaan-3 embodies India’s commitment to advancing planetary exploration and pushing the boundaries of spacefaring.