Chandrayaan-3: India’s historic Moon mission lifts off successfully

India achieved a historic milestone as Chandrayaan-3, its third Moon mission, successfully lifted off from the Sriharikota space center. With the goal of being the first country to land near the south pole of the Moon, India aims to accomplish a soft landing, exploring an area that remains largely unexplored. The spacecraft, consisting of an orbiter, lander, and rover, took off at 14:35 on Friday, greeted with cheers and applause from thousands of spectators.

Chandrayaan-3 follows in the footsteps of India’s previous lunar missions. The country’s first Moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, conducted a comprehensive search for water on the lunar surface in 2008, making a significant discovery near the south pole. However, its successor, Chandrayaan-2, faced challenges during its landing attempt in 2019 due to a braking system glitch, resulting in a crash landing.

Learning from the past, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists have carefully studied the data from Chandrayaan-2’s crash, conducting simulations and rectifying errors. Chandrayaan-3, weighing 3,900kg and costing 6.1 billion rupees ($75 million; £58 million), has the same objective as its predecessor—to achieve a successful soft landing on the Moon’s surface.

The lander, named Vikram, carries the rover named Pragyaan, which weighs 26kg and focuses on studying the physical characteristics of the Moon’s surface, its atmosphere, and tectonic activity. After entering the Moon’s orbit in approximately 15 to 20 days, the craft will gradually reduce its speed for a precise landing on the lunar surface. If all goes according to plan, the rover will explore the Moon, gathering crucial data and images for analysis on Earth.

Chandrayaan-3’s successful mission would make India the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, joining the ranks of the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China. Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the mission’s progress, highlighting its significance in India’s space odyssey and commending the dedication and ingenuity of the country’s scientists.

India’s lunar exploration endeavors extend beyond this mission. The south pole of the Moon holds scientific interest due to its larger permanently shadowed areas, offering the possibility of water. Chandrayaan-1’s discovery of water in 2008 has fueled curiosity about this region. By venturing into new areas, India aims to make significant scientific discoveries and pave the way for future human habitation on the Moon.

The success of Chandrayaan-3 aligns with India’s broader space program goals. The nation envisions the Moon as an outpost and gateway to deep space. Explorations will provide insights into building habitats with locally-available resources and supplying future lunar residents. India’s probes are working toward the vision of an active, protected life on the Moon, transforming it into an extended continent of Earth.

With Chandrayaan-3’s launch, India continues its ambitious space journey, drawing attention globally. Its advancements in space technology, including reaching Mars and launching a record number of satellites, have elevated India’s status in the field. Collaborations with other nations, such as the recent discussions between Prime Minister Modi and President Biden, indicate a growing recognition of India’s space prowess. As India sets its sights on the Moon and beyond, its space program remains a symbol of the country’s rising prominence on the global stage.

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