Chandrayaan 3 starts lunar exploration journey fuelled by unyielding scientific dedication

India on Friday, 14 July launched its ambitious third lunar mission Chandrayaan 3, eyeing a rare feat in moon exploration

BySumit Jha

Published Jul 14, 2023 | 7:29 PM Updated Jul 14, 2023 | 7:30 PM

LMV Mk-3 lifting off from SDRC SHAR.

India on Friday, 14 July launched its ambitious third lunar mission — Chandrayaan 3 — eyeing a rare feat in moon exploration, so far only accomplished by the likes of the US, China and the former Soviet Union.

The third lunar expedition of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 15 years, the hugely anticipated Chandrayaan 3 embarked on its month-long journey towards the moon, piggybacking on ISRO’s latest heavy-lift launch vehicle LVM3-M4 — nicknamed “Fat Boy” — from the spaceport Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

The soft landing of the payload, the most challenging part of the mission, is planned for late August.

Chandrayaan 2 could not achieve this objective when communication with the lander “Vikram” was lost.

As the 25-and-a-half-hour countdown concluded, the LVM3-M4 rocket lifted off majestically from the second launchpad of the spaceport at the fixed time of 2.35 pm, leaving behind a trail of thick orange smoke.

Thousands of spectators who had assembled at Sriharikota to watch the launch since morning broke into loud cheers and applauded as the launch vehicle soared into clear skies.

Also Read: ‘Fat boy’ blasts off with Chandrayaan-3, India’s hopes

‘Mastering the technology of soft landing’

Through the Chandrayaan 3 mission, scientists are aiming at mastering the technology of soft landing on the surface of the moon.

A successful mission would mean India becomes only the fourth country to accomplish the challenge, after the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union.

About 16 minutes after lift-off, Chandrayaan 3 was separated from the rocket and orbited Earth a few times in an elliptical cycle — 170 km at its closest and 36,500 km at its farthest — before moving towards the lunar orbit.

A jubilant ISRO Chairman S Somanath said from the Mission Control Centre (MCC) that the rocket had injected Chandrayaan 3 into a precise orbit.

“Congratulations, India. Chandrayaan 3 has started its journey towards the moon. Our dear LVM3 has already put the Chandrayaan 3 craft into the precise orbit around Earth… And let us wish all the best for the Chandrayaan 3 craft for its further orbit-raising manoeuvres and travel towards the moon in the coming days,” he said.

Mission Director S Mohana Kumar said that the LVM3 rocket had once again proved to be the most reliable heavy-lift vehicle of ISRO.

“We are in the process of increasing the launch frequency of this vehicle, considering the national requirements as well as satellite demands,” he said.

This mission was a “penance” for many across ISRO, he added.

Project Director P Veeramuthuvel said all the spacecraft health parameters, including power generation in the propulsion module and lander module, were normal.

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

‘Moment of glory for India’

Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Jitendra Singh described the Chandrayaan 3 launch as a moment of glory for India and a moment of destiny for all those in Sriharikota.

Lauding team ISRO for making India proud, he thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi “for making this possible by unlocking the gates of Sriharikota and enabling India’s space sector”.

He said the prime minister recently said the sky was not the limit, and living by his words, “I think Chandrayaan has gone beyond the limit of the sky to explore the unexplored horizons of the universe beyond”.

This was also a day of vindication, he said while speaking about the late Vikram Sarabhai, hailed as the Father of India’s space programme.

“This day is an indication of a dream Vikram Sarabhai saw six decades ago. He might have been short of resources, but never short of confidence,” he said.

Sarabhai and his team had faith in themselves, in India’s potential and its acumen, he added.

Earlier, every announcement from the MCC on the successful “separation” of the respective modules was greeted with cheers and applause.

Singh and a host of former ISRO chiefs were present to witness the launch.

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

The launch day

The LVM3 rocket is a composite of three modules — propulsion, lander and rover (which is housed inside the lander).

Two S200 solid rocket boosters were ignited first and when the LVM3 took off.

At 108 seconds, the L110 liquid-stage rocket was ignited, and at 127 seconds, both S200 boosters were separated.

The payload fairing was separated at 195 seconds and was carried by the L110 rocket throughout.

At 305 seconds, the L100 stage was separated, and shortly after, the C25 cryogenic stage was ignited.

The C25 stage was shut off at 954 seconds and was separated from the payload 15 seconds later, after the satellite was injected into the desired orbit to commence its journey to the Moon.

Following the separation from the launch vehicle, the propulsion module along with the lander would proceed for an over-a-month-long journey towards reaching the orbit of the moon until it goes 100 km above the lunar surface.

After reaching the desired altitude, the lander module would begin its descent for a soft landing on the moon’s south pole region. This key action is expected to take place by 23 or 24 August, scientists at ISRO said.

Chandrayaan 3 is the third lunar exploration mission and the fourth operational mission (M4) of the LVM3 launcher.

The reason to fix the launch window during the month of July similar to the Chandrayaan 2 mission (22 July, 2019) was that Earth and the moon would be closer to each other during this part of the year.

Chandrayaan’s earlier missions were held in 2008 and 2019.

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

‘A testament to scientists’ relentless dedication’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Chandrayaan 3 scripts a new chapter in India’s space odyssey.

“It soars high, elevating the dreams and ambitions of every Indian. This momentous achievement is a testament to our scientists’ relentless dedication. I salute their spirit and ingenuity!” he tweeted.

President Droupadi Murmu said that the successful launch of Chandrayaan-3 marks another significant milestone in India’s space exploration.

She congratulated the ISRO team and everyone who worked relentlessly to accomplish the feat. The President added that it demonstrates the nation’s unwavering commitment to advancement in space science and technology. She also extended best wishes for the success of the lunar mission.

The Congress on Friday lauded ISRO for the successful launch of Chandrayaan 3 and said it was a testimony to the vision, foresight, determination and accomplishment of all previous prime ministers, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Party president Mallikarjun Kharge said the launch was a matter of great pride for all Indians as he paid tributes to countless scientists who devoted their lives to building a scientific temper among people.

The Congress chief said India’s lunar missions began with Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 which confirmed the presence of water molecules on the moon. “It was a historic feat by our country”.

Kharge said Chandrayaan-2 also detected the presence of chromium, manganese and sodium for the first time through remote sensing. The perseverance of our scientists did not go in vain, he noted.

“Today, Chandrayaan-3 is a testimony to the vision, foresight, determination and accomplishment of all our previous prime ministers, including Pandit Nehru ji, Lal Bahadur Shastri ji, Indira Gandhi ji, P V Narasimha Rao ji, Rajiv Gandhi ji, Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji and Manmohan Singh ji,” he said.

“It is our sincere tribute to Dr Vikram Sarabhai and Dr Satish Dhawan and countless visionary scientists who devoted their lives to establish and inculcate scientific temper for human and social development for our people,” he tweeted.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao on Friday expressed happiness over the successful launch of the first phase of Chandrayaan-3.

Congratulating the ISRO chairman, scientists, and other technical staff on the occasion, he extended his best wishes.

With the success of the first phase of Chandrayaan-3, India’s space research sector has crossed a major milestone, the chief minister said.

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(With PTI inputs)