Above: Chandrayaan-3 launches from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India on July 14, 2023. Credit: ISRO
India is poised to become only the fourth country in the world to successfully land on the moon. On the heels of the U.S., Russia, and China, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched Chandrayaan-3 on July 14 in a historic second attempt to reach the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan-3 (which translates to “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit) consists of a propulsion module, a lander, and a rover and is scheduled to touch down on Aug. 23 or 24. Its predecessor, Chandrayaan-2, failed an attempted lunar landing in 2019 after ISRO teams lost contact with the lander just one mile above the surface.
So far, everything is going well for the current mission as the spacecraft gradually boosts its Earth orbit in preparation for a lunar trajectory firing. The mission aims to successfully land, deploy a lunar rover, and conduct experiments at the lunar south pole where potentially useful resources are thought to be in abundant supply. The lander is equipped with a suite of scientific instruments to study the surface for up to two weeks (one lunar day)—or until the spacecraft freezes over in the harsh cold of the lunar night.
Because ISRO has signed an accord with the NASA-led Artemis program aimed at peaceful exploration of the moon, data gathered by Chandrayaan-3 may inform future Artemis human landings.
India’s first mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1, launched a probe into lunar orbit in October 2008 and is best known for discovering substantial evidence of the presence of water ice in the moon’s regolith.