India made history on Wednesday after it accomplished an extraordinary achievement: becoming the first nation to achieve a soft landing in the vicinity of the Moon’s southern pole and propelling itself into the exalted club of countries that have successfully touched down on the Earth’s only natural satellite.
Before India, the US, Russia, and China achieved the landing on the Moon but none have managed to accomplish the feat on the moon’s southern polar expanse.
From 5:20 PM onwards on Wednesday, the Chandrayaan-3 entered the critical landing phase, signifying the start of its crucial descent toward a delicate touchdown on the moon’s surface. A “soft landing” entails a carefully managed and gradual descent to preserve the spacecraft’s integrity. At around 6:04 PM, Chandrayaan-3 successfully landed on the Moon.
The official X handle of ISRO posted the success of Chandrayaan-3’s landing on the Moon. “Chandrayaan-3 Mission: ‘India, I reached my destination and you too,” it tweeted.
I reached my destination
and you too!’
Chandrayaan-3 has successfully
soft-landed on the moon 🌖!.
— ISRO (@isro) August 23, 2023
Launched on July 14, the Moon mission comprises three essential elements: the Vikram lander, the Pragyan rover, and a propulsion module. Earlier today, following their detachment from the propulsion module on August 17, the lander and rover strove to gently touch down on the lunar expanse.
Weighing 26 kilograms and named ‘Pragyan’, a Sanskrit term for wisdom, the rover is a robotic vehicle armed with a variety of purpose-built instruments for the mission. The rover’s mission period covers a single lunar day, which equates to 14 days on Earth.
One of its key instruments carried by the rover is a laser-induced breakdown spectroscope (LIBS) propulsion module. This module holds a critical responsibility in performing qualitative and quantitative elemental analysis, helping in the assessment of both the chemical and mineralogical makeup of the moon’s surface.
In addition, the Pragyan rover is armed with an Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), a vital tool for determining the elemental constitution of lunar rocks and soil in the immediate landing vicinity.
It’s worth noting that Russia’s Luna-25 was scheduled for a landing near the Moon’s South Pole this week as well, but an instance of lost control resulted in a crash last Sunday. Likewise, India’s previous lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, hit a setback two years ago due to a technical maneuver failure in its attempt at a vertical landing position. However, these challenges have been carefully tackled this time around.
The lunar southern pole has held significant importance ever since India’s inaugural lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, detected hints of ice molecules in that region back in 2008. The possibility of water’s existence on the Moon holds considerable potential for upcoming planetary and Martian expeditions, unveiling insights into its history, including elements like ancient volcanoes and oceans.
These invaluable findings from the moon’s polar south could serve various needs, including drinking water and equipment cooling. The area might also hold other volatile substances like methane and ammonia. Additionally, exploring the southern pole could offer valuable insights into the initial phases of the solar system.
Significantly, both the United States and China have also planned missions to the Moon’s southern pole, further underscoring the region’s captivating scientific possibilities.