India’s lunar expedition, Chandrayaan-3, marked a significant milestone today with the successful completion of its second and final de-boosting operation. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) meticulously oversaw this critical phase as they prepare for the spacecraft’s imminent landing on the lunar surface this coming Wednesday.
The spacecraft’s lander, named Vikram, has now positioned itself in a carefully calculated orbit, where its closest point to the Moon measures 25 kilometers, while its farthest point reaches 134 kilometers. This orbit will serve as the launching point for an audacious soft landing in the uncharted expanse of the Moon’s south polar region on the specified Wednesday. ISRO conveyed this strategy for the upcoming landing endeavor.
In a statement shared on X, previously known as Twitter, ISRO declared, “The second and final deboosting operation has successfully reduced the LM orbit to 25 km x 134 km. The module would undergo internal checks and await the sun-rise at the designated landing site. The powered descent is expected to commence on August 23, 2023, around 1745 Hrs. IST.”
Vikram, the lunar lander, has been autonomously navigating its descent within the Moon’s orbital path. It has been autonomously deciding its operational steps and procedures.
During the initial de-boosting operation conducted on the preceding Friday, K Sivan, the former head of ISRO, conveyed to NDTV that the design of the Chandrayaan-3 lander remains consistent with that of its predecessor, which was utilized in the Chandrayaan-2 mission. Sivan remarked, “There is no change in design. Based on observations from Chandrayaan-2, all errors that took place in the mission have been corrected.”
If the Moon landing goes as planned, India will etch its name in history as the fourth country to achieve this remarkable feat.
Following the detachment of the lander module from its propulsion counterpart on Thursday, the propulsion module will continue orbiting Earth for an extended period, possibly spanning months or even years. This extended mission will be focused on studying Earth’s atmosphere and analyzing the polarization of light emitted by clouds.
Post-separation, the lander Vikram unveiled its initial snapshots of the Moon on the same day.
Once safely positioned on the lunar surface, Vikram will capture images of the Pragyaan rover, which will delve into the chemical composition of the Moon’s exterior and undertake water detection endeavors. The rover’s operational life span aligns with one lunar day, equivalent to two weeks on Earth.
The launch of Chandrayaan-3 took place on July 14, propelling the mission into space atop the LVM3 rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. Subsequently, on August 5, the spacecraft seamlessly entered the lunar orbit.
Meanwhile, a concerning development transpired on Saturday during a maneuver performed by Russia’s Luna-25 probe, shortly before its intended Moon landing. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, reported that “thrust was released to transfer the probe onto the pre-landing orbit,” but an unforeseen emergency situation disrupted the planned maneuver. This unexpected incident could potentially affect the scheduled landing on Monday, positioned north of the Boguslawsky crater near the lunar south pole. This mission holds particular significance as Russia’s inaugural lunar venture in nearly five decades, successfully positioning the lander into lunar orbit after its launch from the Vostochny cosmodrome in the eastern region of the country.