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HomeNEWSInternational NewsMission Chandrayaan-3 - India's successful soft landing on the Moon

Mission Chandrayaan-3 – India’s successful soft landing on the Moon

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Mission Chandrayaan-3 - India's successful soft landing on the Moon

There is a Brazilian movie released in 2013 called ‘Reaching for the Moon’. It is a love story of the American poet and the Brazilian architect. The movie was premièred during the Berlin Film Festival and the story covers the period between the years 1951 and 1967. The human love towards the Moon became a reality during 1969 with Neil Armstrong becoming the first human to reach the Moon. India has also ambitions of putting humans on the Moon and it could be said that the first effort in that direction happened on 23 Aug 2023, with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) landing the Indian Lander (robotic equipment) on the Moon surface. With this success with soft-landing its Lander and Rover unit on the lunar surface ISRO’s love story with the Moon has begun.

ISRO created a history on 23 Aug 2023 when they successfully landed the Lander Module of India’s third lunar mission Chandrayaan-3 on the lunar surface. Particularly, at the backdrop of the failure during the Chandrayaan-2 mission in respect of conducting the soft-landing of the Lander unit on the lunar surface, this achievement is really praiseworthy. With this success now India becomes the first country in the world to land near the Moon’s South Pole.

Chandrayaan-3 mission was launched on 14 July 2023 and it finally reached the lunar surface on 23 Aug 2023. Subsequently, after a few hours, the ramp in the belly of the lander opened and very slowly the rover unit came out. It is expected to operate for 12 to 14 days on the lunar surface and collect a lot of useful information that could come in handy for designing future missions to the Moon.

Against the backdrop of the 2019 last-minute failure to soft-land the lander and rover unit, it was important for ISRO to get it correct this time. People connected with the Chandrayaan-3 project had made major efforts during the last four years to get it correct this time. It was heartening to note that ISRO was beaming with a lot of confidence before the start of the mission and their expectations have come true. For India, this is not only a demonstrative mission to showcase their expertise in regards to soft-landing on the Moon but also has some scientific agenda associated with it.

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Also Read: Moon Rovers – impressive past and the present

Much notice has been taken internationally about India’s success with soft landing associated with the Chandrayaan-3 mission. Various leaders from across the world have congratulated India on this stupendous achievement. India is the only fourth country to successfully undertake a robotic landing on the Moon’s surface. The major powers are astonished with the sound success of India, a state from the global south and a state, which still gets bracketed as a developing state.

It is important not to look at the success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission in isolation. India has put in place its agenda for the Moon almost two decades back. India undertook its first mission to the Moon called Chandrayaan-1 during the 208-2009 period. Astonishingly, the Moon looks to be a strong source of hydrogen atoms. This surprise discovery was made based on the data received from ESA-ISRO instrument SARA on-board Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter. This mission actually helped the world to realise the availability of water on the Moon’s surface. India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission was launched in 2019 and the orbiter launched during this mission is working fine even today and is assisting the lander unit Chandrayaan-3 in commutations. One important purpose of the Chandrayaan-3 mission is to continue with the query of water. It is known that the water on the Moon is not available in liquid form. Chandrayaan-3 has chosen the South Pole of the Moon as a target area since it is most suitable for finding the Moon’s water (possibly in the frozen form).

The US reached the Moon in 1969 and in total to date twelve astronauts have walked on the Moon’s surface. The US did not continue with its Apollo program post-1972 owing to two reasons: one, being a very costly mission and two, the geostrategic objectives were fulfilled, they had demonstrated to the world (read the Soviets) about their technology supremacy. However, over the last couple of decades, it has been visible that the Moon is a place to get valuable mineral resources. Various minerals including rare earth metals or RREs are available on the lunar surface. To address the issues related to climate change such minerals are required on priority, say RREs for electric vehicles and also used in next-generation electronics. In addition, the Moon’s surface has an abundance of non-radioactive helium-3 (mostly not available on Earth). As per some theoretical calculations, this substance has great utility in powering nuclear fusion reactors. If an aircraft load for helium-3 could be brought back to Earth, then it could help the world resolve the global energy crisis for the next 10/20 years.

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Water is important for humans to survive on the lunar surface. Also, by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, and further liquefying these constituents, rocket fuel could be produced. With this Moon can become a refuelling base for other planetary missions.

ISRO fully understands the importance of the Moon. They are planning to undertake Chandrayaan-4 as a joint mission with Japan in the near future. The success of soft-landing on the Moon is just the beginning of India’s quest to understand the Moon better. India’s Moon romance has just begun. 

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Group Captain Dr Ajey Lele
Group Captain Dr Ajey Lele
Gp Capt Dr Ajey Lele is Deputy Directer General, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. An ex-Indian Air Force Officer, he holds a Master's degree in Physics (Pune University), an MPhil in Defence and Strategic Studies (Madras University), and a doctorate from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. His areas of research include issues related to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Space Security, and Strategic Technologies.


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