About Chandrayaan-3 Mission
- Chandrayaan-3 is India’s third lunar mission and second attempt at achieving a soft landing on the moon’s surface by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation).
- The mission took off from theSatish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) in Sriharikota on July 14, 2023.
- The mission had a budget of ₹ 615 crore.
- It consists of anindigenous Lander module (LM), Propulsion module (PM) and a Rover (Pragyan) with an objective of developing and demonstrating new technologies required for Inter planetary missions.
- The Lander Module of Chandrayaan-3 carrying the Lander, Vikram and Rover, Pragyan, made the historic soft landing on the surface of the Lunar South Pole on August 23, 2023.
- Chandrayaan-3 landing area will be known as Shiv Shakti Point, while the location where Chandrayaan-2 encountered issues in 2019 will be called Tiranga Point.
- Thus, India became the first nation to soft-land on the surface of the Lunar south pole and overall the fourth nation after USA, Soviet Union and China to do a soft landing anywhere on the Earth’s natural satellite.
- With the objective to demonstrate the ability to soft landing and roving as well as to carry out experiments on the lunar surface, the Chandrayaan 3 Mission aims to strengthen India’s prowess in space discovery and innovation. Continuing the success of its predecessors (Chandrayaan-1 and Chandrayaan-2), the Mission has brought India into the exclusive elite space club.
- It is expected to be supportive to ISRO’s future interplanetary missions.
Mission Objectives of Chandrayaan-3
- To demonstrate Safe and Soft Landing on Lunar Surface
- To demonstrate Rover roving on the moon.
- To conduct in-situ scientific experiments.
- The lander (Vikram) and rover payloads (Pragyan) of Chandrayaan-3 remain the same as the Chandrayaan-2 mission.
- The scientific payloads on the lander aim to study various aspects of the lunar environment. These payloads include studyinglunar quakes, thermal properties of the lunar surface, changes in plasma near the surface, and accurately measuring the distance between Earth and the moon.
- The propulsion module of Chandrayaan-3 features a new experiment calledSpectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE).
- SHAPE aims to search for smaller planets with potential habitability by analyzing reflected light.
Changes and Improvements in Chandrayaan-3
- The landing area has been expanded, providing flexibility to land safely within a larger designated area.
- The lander has been equipped with more fuel to enable longer-distance travelto the landing site or alternate locations.
- The Chandrayaan-3 Lander has solar panels on four sides, instead of only two in Chandrayaan-2.
- High-resolution images from the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter are used to determine the landing location, and physical modificationshave been made to enhance stability and sturdiness.
- Additional navigational and guidance instruments are on board Chandrayaan-3 to continuously monitor the Lander’s speed and make the necessary corrections.
- This includes an instrument called Laser Doppler Velocimeter,which will fire laser beams to the lunar surface to calculate the Lander’s speed.
- The lander and the rover will have a mission life of one lunar day (about 14 Earth days) as they work on solar energy.
- Thelanding site for Chandrayaan-3 is near the lunar South Pole.
What is the Importance of Landing near the Lunar South Pole?
- Historically, spacecraft missions to the Moon have primarily targeted the equatorial region due to its favorable terrain and operating conditions.
- However, the lunar South Pole presents a vastly different and more challenging terrain compared to the equatorial region.
- Sunlight is scarce in certain polar regions, resulting in perpetually dark areas where temperatures can reach to -230 degrees Celsius.
- This lack of sunlight and extreme cold pose difficulties for instrument operation and sustainability.
- The lunar South Pole offers extreme and contrasting conditions that pose challenges for humans but it make them potential repositories of valuable information about the early Solar System.
- It is crucial to explore this region which could impact future deep space exploration.
Challenges of landing on the South Pole
- Previous spacecraft have mostly landed near the equatorial region of the Moon, a few degrees latitude north or south of the lunar equator. Landing near the equator is easier and safer due to the hospitable terrain, smooth surface, absence of steep slopes, and ample sunlight for solar-powered instruments.
- The lunar South Pole, on the other hand, presents a challenging terrain with extreme temperatures and areas that are in permanent shadow, receiving no sunlight.
India’s other Chandrayaan Missions
- India’s lunar exploration missions began withChandrayaan-1 in 2008, which aimed to create a three-dimensional atlas of the moon and conduct mineralogical mapping.
- Launch Vehicle: PSLV – C11.
- Chandrayaan-1 made significant discoveries, including thedetection of water and hydroxyl on the lunar surface.
- Chandrayaan-2 consisted of an Orbiter, Lander, and Rover,with the goal of exploring the lunar South Pole.
- Launch Vehicle: GSLV MkIII-M1
- Although the lander and rover crashed on the moon’s surface, the Orbiter successfully collected dataand found signatures of water at all latitudes.
Types of Moon Missions
- These missions involvespacecraft passing near the moon without entering its orbit, allowing for observations from a distance.
- Examples include Pioneer 3 and 4 by the United States and Luna 3 by the USSR.
- These spacecraft enter lunar orbit to conduct prolonged studies of the moon’s surface and atmosphere.
- Chandrayaan-1 and 46 other missionshave utilized orbiters.
- Impact Missions
- Extensions of orbiter missions, impact missions involve instruments making an uncontrolled landing on the lunar surface,providing valuable data before being destroyed.
- Chandrayaan-1’s Moon Impact Probe (MIP)followed this approach.
- These missions aim for a soft landing on the moon’s surface, allowing for close-quarter observations.
- Luna 9 by the USSRwas the first successful landing on the moon in 1966.
- Rovers are specialized payloads thatdetach from landers and move independently on the lunar surface.
- They gather valuable data and overcome the limitations of stationary landers. Chandrayaan-2’s rover was called Pragyan (the same name is retained for Chandrayaan-3 as well).
- Human Missions
- These missions involve the landing of astronauts on the moon’s surface.
- Only NASA has achieved this feat, with six successful landings between 1969 and 1972.
- NASA’s Artemis III, planned for 2025,will mark humanity’s return to the moon.
How is Chandrayaan-3 different from other moon missions?
- Chandrayaan-3 is different from other moon mission as it will be the world’s first mission to soft-land near the lunar South Pole.
- All the previous spacecraft have landed a few degrees latitude north or south in the lunar equatorial region as it is easier and safer to land near the equator.
- The surface near the lunar equator is even and smooth, with lesser hills or craters. Also, abundant sunlight offers regular supply of energy to solar-powered instruments.
- The polar regions of the moon have numerous cratersand many regions near lunar poles are characterized by lack of sunlight and extremely low temperatures, reaching below minus 230 degrees Celsius. The absence of sunlight and extremely low temperatures pose obstacles for instrument operation.
Why ISRO wants to explore the Moon’s South Pole?
- Unexplored region
- The challenging conditions of the polar regions on the moon have discouraged exploration, but evidence from various Orbiter missions suggests these areas hold significant potential for exploration.
- For example, the 2008 Chandrayaan-1 mission indicated the presence of substantial amounts of ice molecules in the deep craters of this region.
Insights into early history of Solar System
- Also, the extreme cold temperatures in the polar regions of the moon preserves objects as they remain frozen and undergo minimal change over time.
- As a result, the rocks and soil found in the Moon’s north and south poles have the potential to offer valuable insights into the early stages of the Solar System.
- Presence of water
- The Moon’s minimal axial tilt of 1.5 degrees results in certain craters near the lunar north and south poles never receiving direct sunlight.
- The South Pole region is believed to have water molecules in substantial amounts, possibly trapped as ice in the permanently shadowed craters.
- Exploring and confirming the presence of water is essential for future human missions and the potential utilization of lunar resources.
- Scientific Discoveries
- The extreme environment and the presence of permanently shadowed regions provide a preserved record of the Moon’s history and the early Solar System.
- Clues to Earth’s History
- The Moon is thought to have formed from debris generated by a giant impact between a Mars-sized objectand the early Earth.
- By studying the lunar South Pole, scientists can gain insights into the materials and conditions that existed during the formation of the Earth-Moon system.
- Global Collaborations
- ISRO-NASA successfully confirmed the presence of water from the data taken by Chandrayaan-1.
- Indo-Japan collaboration, LUPEXaims to send a lander and rover to the Moon’s South Pole around 2024.
- Technological Advancements
- By undertaking missions to this region, ISRO can develop and demonstrate innovative technologies for soft landing, navigation, resource utilization, and long-duration operationsthat can be applied in future space missions.
What is the significance of the mission?
- With a human-rated(thorough process to safely design, build and launch a crewed spacecraft) Launch Vehicle Mark (LVM) to be used for the upcoming
- Gaganyaan mission, the LVM-3’s successful launch of the Chandrayaan-3 has gained significance, as it has further enhanced the reliability of the launch vehicle.
- Shift In India’s Space Programme
- The Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan signal a shift in strategy.
- Earlier, ISRO seemed focussed on utilitarian objectiveslike enabling telecommunications, telemedicine and tele-education, broadcasting, or setting up remote sensing satellites.
- But space and planetary explorationis becoming a priority now.
- Future Space Exploration
- The ability to make a soft landingon a planetary body is a crucial technology which can impact IRSO’s ability to carry out, or participate in, other scientific missions to the moon.
- In the future, there is a likelihood of discontinuing the International Space Station, leading several nations, including the US, to explore the construction of more permanent structures on the lunar surface. India aspires to become a significant partner in these endeavors.
Boost To The Indian Space-Tech Ecosystem
- The successful launch of Chandrayaan-3 could bolster investor confidence and attract more private investmentin space technology.
- This development will promote cost-efficient and highly reliable space-grade hardware provided by the Indian space industry for this mission.
- Moreover, it validates India’s industry as a potential supplier for lunar programs undertaken by other countries.
- Boosting Private Investment
- India’s field-tech sector is on investors’ radars with historic growth of private rocket launches and satellite deployments.
- The accomplishment of the Chandrayaan trio should drive investor confidence higher and attract more private investment in aerospace technology projects.
- Job creation
- India’s booming aerospace technology sector has already created hundreds of jobs.
- Successful lunar missions and subsequent programs are poised to create additional high-tech business opportunities, both directly and indirectly.
- Nurturing Startups
- The success of Chandrayaan-3 could be a technology showcase, boosting India’s goodwill in the global space community.
- This could attract joint ventures and business opportunities for Indian companies and startups to develop and develop space systems for the global market.
Strategic Positioning and Strengthening International Reputation
- The success of Chandrayaan-3 has positioned India as an important player in the international space race, potentially matching China’s influence. With Russia facing economic sanctions, it is an opportunity for India to strengthen its position.
- It has earnt India global recognition and lead to the cost-effective adoption of spacecraft manufactured by Indian companies and proof of its reliability. This achievement has led to useful international cooperation.
- This success offers tangible power advantages, which is evident by the fact that major global powers are also leading space-faring nations. Hence, ISRO should swiftly progress in this new phase.
- Moreover, the future of space exploration will heavily rely on collaboration, as the envisioned missions and infrastructure necessitate capabilities beyond the reach of any single country. But collaborations will only be established with partners who can add value to the partnership.
- India has the potential to exert a significant influence on global space policyand should actively pursue the establishment of a regional space alliance, such as an Asian Space Agency, to enhance collective bargaining power and become a formidable force in the field.
- While prioritizing the peaceful use of outer space, India must also remain cautious of the potential militarization of space.
- However, becoming a space power is a crucial initial step, and Chandrayaan-3 can propel India closer to achieving this goal.
Chandrayaan 3, driven by a passionate mission, serves as an inspiration for generations to aspire toward the stars.