Chandrayaan-3: Lander Module makes soft landing on Moon, India enters elite club

The soft landing was as planned. Years of research made the feat possible. Scientists across the world keen to study the lunar south pole.

BySumit Jha

Published Aug 23, 2023 | 6:17 PM Updated Aug 23, 2023 | 8:20 PM

India became the fourth nation to make a soft landing on Moon. (Supplied)

“India has arrived,” the country of 1.42 billion people announced after the Chandrayaan-3’s Lander Module (LM), Vikram, made a soft landing on the lunar surface at 6.04 pm on Wednesday, 23 August.

Though three countries — Russia, the US, and China — have made soft landings on the lunar surface, India’s feat gains significance since Vikram landed on the unexplored south pole of the Moon.

Scientists at the ISRO’s Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), who were monitoring the descend to the moon, broke out in applause as the LM touched down softly on the satellite’s surface.

Scientists across the world are curious to know more about the lunar south pole because of water ice in the permanently shadowed areas around it, as confirmed by Chandrayaan-1.

This momentous achievement reflects not only India’s remarkable strides in space exploration but also the spirit of innovation, determination, and scientific prowess that the nation embodies.

For Indians, witnessing their country touching down on the Moon’s surface symbolises a journey of aspirations turning into reality. The meticulous planning, dedicated efforts, and collaboration of scientists, engineers, and experts have converged to make this feat possible.

Earlier in the day, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed that the mission was proceeding as planned.

Related: Why ISRO chose 23 August for the landing of Chandrayaan-3

Landing after 41 days

Chandrayaan-3, a subsequent mission to Chandrayaan-2, embarked on a journey to demonstrate safe and soft landing on the lunar surface, carry out roving activities, and conduct in-situ scientific experiments.

The mission carries the weight of Chandrayaan-2’s failed attempt. The landed had into the Moon’s surface moments before touchdown in 2019.

With a budget of ₹600 crore, Chandrayaan-3 was launched on 14 July. The mission’s soft landing comes in the wake of Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft’s recent crash into the Moon. Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram defied the odds and achieved a successful landing.

The Lunar Module underwent meticulous internal checks while awaiting the sunrise at the designated landing site. The critical phase of the soft landing process, often referred to as the “17 minutes of terror,” unfolded autonomously.

During this period, the lander autonomously executed engine firings, fuel management, and obstacle avoidance to ensure a safe descent.

Following a careful assessment of parameters, ISRO transmitted the necessary commands from its Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu near Bengaluru, ensuring a controlled and precise touchdown. The landing process involved strategic retro firings of the thruster engines, carefully adjusting the lander’s velocity to match the lunar surface conditions.

As the lander module completed its gentle touchdown, India’s triumph resonated globally, highlighting its technological prowess and determination. The successful landing also set the stage for the rover, ‘Pragyan,’ to disembark from the lander’s belly and explore the Moon’s surface using scientific payloads.

Chandrayaan-3, India’s third lunar mission, was programmed to land on 23 August considering the start of the Moon’s daytime towards its south pole. The timing would help the lunar vehicle use sunlight to charge its batteries.

Related: Russia out of contest after Luna-25 crash

Significance of 23 August

The date, 23 August, marks the commencement of the lunar day — equivalent to 14 Earth days — on the Moon’s south pole.

Chandrayaan-3 would make comprehensive scientific observations, carry out experiments, and accumulate valuable data throughout its active phase on the Moon’s surface.

Since one of the reasons for the failure of Chandrayaan-2 was the small 500 m x 500 m site identified for landing the spacecraft, the ISRO has identified a larger landing area for Chandrayaan-3.

ISRO chief S Somnath had said that instead of the success-based design in Chandrayaan-2, the space agency opted for a failure-based design in Chandrayaan-3.

“We expanded the area of landing from 500m x 500m to 4 km x 2.5 km. It can land anywhere, so it doesn’t limit you to target a specific point. It will target a specific point only in nominal conditions. So, if the performance is poor, it can land anywhere within that area,” ISRO chief S Somanath said.

The landing transcends the boundaries of science and technology; it resonates with the collective dreams and aspirations of a diverse nation.

As the lander module gently touched down on the lunar surface, it embodied the spirit of unity and progress binding the Indian people. The achievement serves as an inspiration for generations to come, encouraging young minds to reach for the stars and pursue careers in science, engineering, and space exploration.

The historic moment not only propels India into an elite group of countries capable of landing on the Moon but also ignites a sense of national pride and achievement.

It is a reminder that with determination, innovation, and unwavering dedication, no dream is too distant to reach. As the lander module establishes its connection with the moon, India sets a remarkable example for the world, showcasing the incredible potential that emerges when a nation dares to dream and strives to turn those dreams into reality.

(To be updated)