February 1, 2024


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India is all set to send its third mission to the moon with an aim to achieve what its predecessor could not. The mission is set to “demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface”. A successful soft landing will make India the fourth country, after the United States, Russia, and China, to achieve the feat. The position remains vacant after the missions from Israel and India in 2019 crash-landed and the spacecraft carrying a lander-rover from Japan and a rover from UAE failed in 2022. The first moon rocket, Chandrayaan-1, was launched in 2008, and was successfully inserted into lunar orbit. While the objectives of the Chandrayan 3 remain the same, scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) have learnt from the previous mission. The lander’s design was improved after a series of tests to see how it performs under various circumstances, such as inability to reach the landing spot, failure of electronics or sensors, velocity being higher than needed, among others. After launching into an orbit around the Earth at an altitude of 179 km on July 14, the spacecraft will gradually increase its orbit in a series of manoeuvres to escape the Earth’s gravity and slingshot towards the moon. After reaching close to the moon, the spacecraft will need to be captured by its gravity. Once that happens, another series of manoeuvres will reduce the orbit of the spacecraft to a 100×100 km circular one. Thereafter, the lander, which carries the rover inside it, will separate from the propulsion module and start its powered descent. This whole process is likely to take around 42 days, with the landing slated for August 23 at the lunar dawn. Lunar days and nights last for 14 earth days. The lander and rover are built to last only one lunar day — they can’t survive the extreme drop in temperatures during lunar nights — and hence have to land right at dawn.