India’s Chandrayaan-3 is on its way to the Moon after final orbit boost

Chandrayan 3

India’s third mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-3, has successfully completed its last orbit-raising manoeuvre around the Earth on Monday, July 31, 2023, and is now heading towards its lunar destination. The spacecraft, which has a lander, a rover and a propulsion module, was launched on July 14, 2023, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said that the final orbit-boost was done at 11:30 am IST (06:00 UTC) using the thrusters of the propulsion module. The manoeuvre increased the spacecraft’s farthest point from Earth to about 4.1 lakh km (254,000 miles).

ISRO said that all the parts of Chandrayaan-3 are working well and that the health of the spacecraft is being watched from the Mission Operations Complex at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru.

Chandrayaan-3 is expected to reach near the Moon by August 20, 2023, and enter a 100 km circular orbit around it. The propulsion module will then separate from the lander-rover pair and act as a communication link. The lander, named Vikram after the founder of ISRO, will try to land softly near the lunar south pole area on August 23 or 24, 2023. The landing site is between Manzinus C and Simpelius N craters, at about 69.4 degrees south latitude and 32.3 degrees east longitude.

The lander will release the rover, named Pragyan, which means wisdom in Sanskrit. The rover will roam around the lunar surface for about 14 days, doing scientific experiments and collecting data on the Moon’s makeup, geology and environment. The lander will also do some experiments using its own instruments.

Chandrayaan-3 is India’s second try to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, after Chandrayaan-2 failed to do so in September 2019 because of a problem in the landing software at the last moment. Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter, however, continues to orbit and study the Moon even today. Chandrayaan-3 is also India’s third lunar mission overall, following Chandrayaan-1 in 2008, which found signs of water molecules on the lunar surface.

If successful, Chandrayaan-3 will make India the fourth country to soft land on the Moon, after the US, the former Soviet Union and China. It will also be the first mission to land near the lunar south pole area, which is very interesting for science because of its possible resources and unique light conditions. Chandrayaan-3 is also seen as a step towards ISRO’s future missions to other planets, such as Gaganyaan (India’s first human spaceflight programme), Aditya-L1 (a mission to study the Sun) and Shukrayaan-1 (a mission to orbit Venus).

Chandrayaan-3 weighs about 3.9 tonnes and cost about Rs 610 crore ($75 million). It is supported by several international agencies, such as the European Space Agency (ESA), which provides tracking and communication services for the mission. ESA has also signed a deal with ISRO to work together on future missions as well.

Chandrayaan-3 has been praised as a great achievement for India and a proof of its scientific talent and ambition. Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his compliments to ISRO, stating that the Chandrayaan-3 mission has “elevated the aspirations and hopes of each individual in India”. He also said that he was looking forward to seeing the historic landing of Vikram and Pragyan on the Moon.

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