Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Chandrayaan-3: India’s Next Leap Towards Lunar Exploration

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India made a significant achievement in the realm of space exploration on Wednesday, as it successfully landed its Chandrayaan-3 mission on the unexplored south pole of the moon. The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft had been launched just last month and executed its lunar landing at approximately 8:34 a.m. ET.

As India counts down to the crowning moment of its third lunar mission ‘Chandrayaan-3‘ — the attempted soft-landing on the south face of the moon — poet and diplomat Abhay K has penned down a ‘Moon Anthem’.

This accomplishment elevates India to the status of the fourth country in the world, following the then-Soviet Union, the United States, and China, to achieve a lunar landing. Importantly, India’s mission marks the first successful landing on one of the moon’s lunar poles.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Johannesburg attending the 15th annual BRICS summit of emerging markets, watched the livestream of the landing and conveyed that this achievement belonged to all of humanity, not just India. He also expressed aspirations for further lunar exploration and beyond.

The lunar south pole has recently garnered scientific interest due to the discovery of traces of water ice on the moon. India had previously attempted a lunar south pole landing in September 2019, but a software failure resulted in the Chandrayaan-2 mission crashing into the lunar surface. The presence of water on the lunar south pole is seen as crucial for future exploration, potentially serving as a source of fuel for rockets and spacecraft.

Russia had also attempted a lunar landing with its Luna-25 mission, but it encountered issues and crashed into the lunar surface. Similarly, a Japanese company’s landing attempt ended in a crash earlier this year.

In contrast, NASA has been increasingly relying on private companies for robotic exploration missions while concentrating its own efforts on the Artemis program, aimed at human lunar exploration. U.S.-based companies like Intuitive Machines and Astrobotic are preparing for lunar cargo missions.

India’s accomplishments in space have been gaining international recognition, and the country is becoming a significant player in the geopolitics of space exploration. Indian Prime Minister Modi had signed agreements with President Joe Biden during his visit to the U.S. to collaborate on missions between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and NASA. It is expected that next year, India and NASA will cooperate to send Indian astronauts to the
International Space Station.

Despite its relatively modest annual budget compared to NASA, ISRO has achieved remarkable results, with the Chandrayaan-3 mission estimated to have cost about $75 million. This mission was initially scheduled for 2021 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson congratulated ISRO on this achievement, highlighting their partnership in space exploration.

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