Bengaluru, India - In a major milestone for India's space program, the Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander successfully touched down on the surface of the moon today. This marks India's first-ever soft landing on the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan-3 was launched on July 14, 2023, and spent nearly 7 weeks journeying to the moon. The lander separated from the orbiter earlier today and began its controlled descent, firing braking thrusters to slow itself down as it approached the pre-determined landing site near the moon's south pole. After a tense few minutes, the lander made contact with the lunar surface at 13:40 GMT.
The historic landing was greeted with cheers and applause at the Indian Space Research Organisation's mission control center in Bengaluru. ISRO Chairman Dr. K Sivan called it a
"monumental achievement for India's space program."
The domestically built Chandrayaan-3 lander is loaded with scientific instruments to study the lunar surface. Over the next 14 days, it will conduct various experiments and capture images of the landing site. The data gathered will help scientists better understand the moon's geology and composition.
Chandrayaan-3 builds on the success of India's Chandrayaan-2 mission, which placed an orbiter around the moon in 2019. However, the lander from that earlier mission crashed during descent due to a technical glitch.
India did an incredibly unique and efficient maneuverer, burning at periapsis every time they orbited Earth, allowing them to make the most of the Oberth Effect.
The Oberth Effect is a phenomenon where the efficiency of a propulsion system increases as the speed of a spacecraft increases.
The basic idea is that when a spacecraft is traveling at high speeds, the energy gained from a given amount of propellant burned is greater than at lower speeds. Therefore, if you burn a certain amount of propellant while the spacecraft is already moving at high speed, the increase in kinetic energy is more significant than if you were to burn the same amount of propellant at a lower speed.
This effect is particularly important for manoeuvres like orbital insertion or deep space missions. By performing manoeuvres at the highest speed possible (such as during a close approach to a planet), a spacecraft can achieve greater changes in velocity with the same amount of propellant, thus maximizing its efficiency.
Chandrayaan-3, which weighs 3,900kg and cost 6.1bn rupees ($75m; £58m), will be doing a lot for science on the lunar surface.
The lander and rover of Chandrayaan-3 landed in the South Pole region of the Moon, which is thought to be rich in water ice. The rover will be equipped with a variety of instruments to study the lunar surface, including:
A camera to take images of the surface.
A spectrometer to analyze the composition of the rocks and soil.
A magnetometer to measure the magnetic field of the Moon.
A seismometer to detect lunar quakes.
The scientific experiments that will be conducted by Chandrayaan-3 include:
Studying the origin and evolution of the Moon.
Investigating the presence of water ice on the Moon.
Characterizing the lunar surface and its composition.
Measuring the lunar gravity field and magnetic field.
Studying the lunar environment.
The successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 will be a major milestone for India's space program and will help to advance our understanding of the Moon. The scientific data collected by the mission will be invaluable for future lunar exploration missions.
Here are some of the specific sciences that Chandrayaan-3 will do on the Moon:
Study the origin and evolution of the Moon. Chandrayaan-3 will study the composition of the lunar surface and its rocks, which can provide clues about how the Moon formed and evolved.
Investigate the presence of water ice on the Moon. Water ice is thought to be present in the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon's South Pole. Chandrayaan-3 will search for water ice using its radar and spectrometer instruments.
Characterize the lunar surface and its composition. Chandrayaan-3 will map the lunar surface and study its composition using its camera, spectrometer, and magnetometer instruments.
Measure the lunar gravity field and magnetic field. The lunar gravity field and magnetic field can provide information about the interior structure of the Moon. Chandrayaan-3 will measure these fields using its gravity gradiometer and magnetometer instruments.
Study the lunar environment. Chandrayaan-3 will study the lunar atmosphere, dust, and radiation environment. This information can be used to protect future astronauts and spacecraft from the harsh lunar environment.
The science that Chandrayaan-3 will do on the Moon will help us to better understand our nearest neighbour and its potential for future exploration. Us ponderers are certainly excited for all this science!
Congratulations to India! <3