‘Fat boy’ blasts off from Sriharikota carrying India’s high Chandrayaan-3 hopes

The lander is expected to land on moon in late August, propelling the country to the elite league of four nations.

BySumit Jha

Published Jul 14, 2023 | 2:45 PMUpdatedJul 14, 2023 | 4:53 PM

Chandrayaan 3 launch

India’s ambitious Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission blasted off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at 2.35 pm on Friday, 14 July, and successfully entered the intended orbit.

Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre have been working on the mission ever since the previous one failed. The propulsion module is expected to deliver a lander 100 km above the lunar surface.

The lander is expected to land on the moon either on 23 or 24 August, propelling India into the elite club of four countries that had left their footprints on the Earth’s satellite.

“Fat boy” LVM-3-M4 rocket carried Chandrayaan-3.  “The ISRO is crossing new frontiers by demonstrating soft-landing on the lunar surface by its lunar module and demonstrating roving on the lunar terrain,” the space agency said.

Chandrayaan 3 launch

LMV Mk-3 lifting off from SDRC SHAR. (Screengrab)

The countdown began at 1.05 pm on Thursday, 13 July. The mission is expected to support India’s future interplanetary explorations.

Chandrayaan-3 mission comprises an indigenous propulsion module, a lander module, and a rover. The objective is to develop and demonstrate new technologies required for interplanetary missions.

The largest and heaviest LVM-3 (Launch Vehicle Mark-III), fondly called “Fat Boy” by ISRO scientists for its heavy lifting capability, has completed six consecutive successful missions. It was previously known as GSLV-MkIII.

Friday’s mission is the fourth operational flight of LVM-3 which launched the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft into a geo-transfer orbit.

The launch window of Chandrayaan-3 had been fixed for July, similar to that of the Chandrayaan-2 mission (22 July, 2019) because the Earth and moon are closer to each other during this period of the year.

Related: All you need to know about the Chandrayaan-3 moon quest

Prime Minister’s message

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Chandrayaan-3 mission will carry the hopes and dreams of the nation. He lauded the scientists hours before the launch.

Till Chandrayaan-1, the moon was believed to be a bone-dry, geologically inactive, and uninhabitable celestial body while it is now seen as a dynamic and geologically active body with the presence of water and sub-surface ice, he said on Twitter.

Maybe in the future, it can be potentially inhabited, the prime minister added.

Modi tweeted, “14th July 2023 will always be etched in golden letters as far as India’s space sector is concerned. Chandrayaan-3, our third lunar mission, will embark on its journey.”

Covering over 300,000 km, it will reach the moon in the coming weeks. Scientific payloads will study the moon’s surface and enhance our knowledge, he said.

“Thanks to our scientists, India has a very rich history in the space sector. Chandrayaan-1 is considered to be a path breaker among global lunar missions as it confirmed the presence of water molecules on the moon. It featured in over 200 scientific publications around the world,” Modi said.

Giving details of the history of India’s moon mission, the prime minister said Chandrayaan-2 was equally pathbreaking because data from the Orbiter associated with it detected the presence of chromium, manganese and sodium for the first time through remote sensing.

“This will also provide more insights into the moon’s magmatic evolution. The key scientific outcomes from Chandrayaan-2 include the first-ever global map for lunar sodium, enhancing knowledge on crater-size distribution, unambiguous detection of lunar surface water ice with IIRS instrument, and more. This mission has been featured in almost 50 publications,” he said.

Modi urged the citizens to know more about this mission and the strides India has made in space, science, and innovation. “It will make you all very proud,” he added.

Also read: India’s 1st privately developed rocket lifts off from Sriharikota

Timeline of Chandrayaan missions

August 15, 2003: Then Prime Minister, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee announces the Chandrayaan programme.

October 22, 2008: Chandrayaan-1 takes off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.

November 8, 2008: Chandrayaan-1 enters a lunar transfer trajectory.

November 14, 2008: The moon impact probe ejects from Chandrayaan-1 and crashes near the lunar South Pole — confirming the presence of water molecules on the moon’s surface.

August 28, 2009: End of Chandrayaan-1 programme as per ISRO.

July 22, 2019: Chandrayaan-2 launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

August 20, 2019: Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft inserted into lunar orbit.

September 2, 2019: Vikram Lander was separated while orbiting the moon. However, communication from the lander to the ground stations was lost at an altitude of 2.1 km from the surface of the moon.

July 14, 2023: Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft lifted off from the second launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

August 23/24, 2023: Scientists at ISRO have tentatively scheduled a soft landing on the lunar surface.

Also read: LVM-3 successfully injects 36 satellites into intended orbits

The Tamil connect

What is so uniquely common about the Chandrayaan series that started with the maiden lunar mission back in 2008? A Tamil connect.

After Tamil Nadu-born Mayilsamy Annadurai and M Vanitha helmed Chandrayaan-1 and 2, Villupuram native P Veeramuthuvel is overseeing the third mission.

The ISRO, under the chairmanship of a soft-spoken S Somanath, aims to enter an elite league of nations that have mastered the art of soft landing on the lunar surface, with a similar attempt made in 2008 not fetching the desired results.

Veeramuthuvel is currently the project director of the Chandrayaan-3 mission. Hailing from Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district, Ph.D. holder Veeramuthuvel is an alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

He succeeds Vanitha who was the project director of the Chandrayaan-2 mission under the leadership of then ISRO Chief K Sivan.

Vanitha also became the first woman project director in the history of ISRO.

Annadurai has been hailed as the “Moon Man of India” after he helmed the maiden Chandrayaan mission in 2008.

Interestingly, former President, the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who led India’s rocket programme, hailed from Tamil Nadu’s Rameswaram.

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