Be Tech Ready!!

Why did India choose to land Chandrayaan-3 at the Lunar South Pole?


India has achieved a significant milestone by being the first country to land on the Moon’s south pole with its Chandrayaan-3 probe. This success happened shortly after Russia’s Luna-25, which was also headed for the same area, unfortunately crashed on the lunar surface.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, applauded the scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He highlighted that this groundbreaking mission will inspire not only India but also other nations, especially those in the global south, to aim for lunar exploration. According to sources from ISRO, the rover Pragyan has made its way out of the lander Vikram soon.

What is Chandrayaan-3’s mission?

Chandrayaan-3 is geared up for a bunch of experiments, such as using a spectrometer to analyze the minerals and chemicals on the Moon’s surface. This will yield important insights into the characteristics of lunar soil and rocks. The mission also aims to verify the existence of water ice in the area, which holds the potential to provide oxygen, fuel, and even drinking water for upcoming space exploration endeavors.

Mylswamy Annadurai, the mastermind behind India’s inaugural Moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, shared with Nature India that a successful gentle touchdown by the Chandrayaan-3 mission will usher in a multitude of exciting possibilities.

Scott Hubbard, who used to be the bigwig at NASA Ames Center and now hangs out at Stanford University, pointed out that safely plopping a spacecraft onto a whole other world is a seriously impressive feat in the realms of science and engineering.

Also read: Chandrayaan-3 will land even if everything fails: Here’s how

A dream come true for ISRO

The adventure undertaken by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) kicked off on July 14. Using the launch vehicle LVM-3, Chandrayaan-3 embarked on a 384,000km voyage from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre located on India’s southeastern coast in Sriharikota.

Chandrayaan-3 took a few spins around Earth to pick up some speed before setting out on its lunar journey that lasted about a month. They did three rounds of “let’s get closer to the Moon” moves on August 6, 9, and 14. Then, on August 16, they did the last tweak, putting Chandrayaan-3 into an orbit of 153km x 163km, gradually edging it even nearer to its eventual landing spot.

On August 17, the lander gave the propulsion module the slip and went into a slower mode to position itself in an orbit where it got as close as 30 km to the Moon (Perilune) and as far as 100 km away (Apolune).

India’s inaugural trip to the Moon managed to stumble upon water molecules on its surface. However, the second go-around, Chandrayaan-2 in 2019, hit a rough patch and crashed during the critical landing phase.

What made Chandrayaan-3 overcome its precursor’s hurdles

Chandrayaan-3 is made up of an Indian-made lander module (LM), a propulsion module (PM), and a rover. The mission’s aim is to work on and show off new technologies that will be useful for journeys between planets.

The Vikram lander brings along a bunch of gadgets: Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) to check out how hot or cold the surface is, the Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) to measure shakes around the landing spot, the Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA) to look into the gas and plasma stuff, and NASA threw in a passive laser thingy that reflects light for lunar distance measuring.

The rover Pragyan, which means ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit, will be cruising around the highlands close to the Moon’s south pole. As it roams, it’s set to do some on-the-spot chemical snooping of the lunar surface. This six-wheeled explorer will be running tests for about 14 Earth days, which is a whole lunar day. It’s equipped with two tools to study what’s going on around there: an Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and a Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS).

After Chandrayaan-2 had its mishap, all eyes were on nailing that crucial landing, so they got down to some serious practice runs. The lander got some beefed-up landing legs, extra fuel, and smarter sensors. They even gave the software a makeover and expanded the landing zone to cover more ground.

Putting together the two gadgets for Pragyan came with its fair share of hurdles. The big one was crafting the electronics in-house without messing up the top-notch energy accuracy of the Silicon Drift Detector (SDD) used in APXS, the X-ray sensor.

Also read: How astronomers can change an asteroid into a space habitat on a low budget

Why Has Chandrayaan-3 landed on the South Pole?

Space folks and scientists have had their eyes on the Moon’s south pole for a while now. They’re curious because the shady craters in that area seem to be packing more water ice compared to other spots on the Moon. This could be a big deal if we’re thinking about setting up camp there for humans in the long haul.

NASA’s Artemis program is all about sending astronauts back to the Moon, and they’ve got their sights set on the South Pole for the Artemis III mission in 2025. “And congratulations to #India on being the 4th country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote on X. “We’re glad to be your partner on this mission!”

India and Russia were kind of racing to get to the Moon’s south pole. Russia’s Luna-25, which unfortunately crashed, was their first attempt at a moon landing in nearly 50 years. The folks at Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, mentioned that they lost touch with the lander on Sunday after it started up its engines, getting ready to come down to the surface.

Chandrayaan-3 is all set to do a bunch of science stuff right on the surface, like checking out minerals and shaking things up to measure quakes. The lander, which is about SUV-sized, has a little buddy rover with it. Both these solar-powered gadgets are built to do their thing for around two weeks on the Moon. Let’s hope Chandrayaan-3 succeeds in its mission and helps ISRO carry out extended research on the Lunar surface.

Vishal Kawadkar
About author

With over 8 years of experience in tech journalism, Vishal is someone with an innate passion for exploring and delivering fresh takes. Embracing curiosity and innovation, he strives to provide an informed and unique outlook on the ever-evolving world of technology.