India lands Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on Moon, is the first to lunar south pole
Way to go, ISRO. Congrats on getting your rover rolling, too
Video with update India successfully put its Chandrayaan-3 lander on the Moon today, making the nation's space agency the first organization of its kind to touch down on the lunar south pole.
Launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota, an island off the Bay of Bengal coast, on July 14, Chandrayaan-3 has three main parts: a triple-stage Launch Vehicle Mark-3 rocket carrying a lander module named Vikram and a rover called Pragyan.
The unmanned craft reached lunar orbit on August 5, and released the lander and rover on August 17, which descended to the Moon's surface.
Now, it has finally reached its target destination: the lunar south pole, a region covered in craters permanently shadowed from the Sun and encrusted with ice. The achievement makes India the fourth country to land on the Moon after the US, Russia, and China, and the first to land on the lunar south pole.
An artist's impression of the Chandrayaan-3 mission's craft on the Moon, and inset: a view of the lunar surface as the probe descended ... Sources: ISRO
Pulling off a soft landing on the surface of another celestial body is somewhat difficult. Spacecraft have to execute a series of steps perfectly to gradually slow their speed to reach the ground in one piece, keeping all its hardware intact. Days before the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) pulled off this feat, Russia's Roscosmos tried to steer its Luna-25 probe into an orbit to prepare also for a soft landing but screwed up and smashed it into the Moon.
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This Chandrayaan-3 mission is ISRO's second attempt to touchdown on lunar regolith. In 2019, its Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft managed to get its orbiter to circle the Moon, but failed to deliver its lander and rover as hoped. Mission control erupted in applause, however, this time as officials, scientists, and engineers monitored Chandrayaan-3 reaching the surface. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also watching closely.
You can watch a replay of the livestream from ISRO here.
"I would like to address all the people of the world, the people of every country, and every region," Modi said in a speech after the landing. "India's successful Moon mission is not just India's alone … The success belongs to all of humanity and it will help Moon missions by other countries in the future."
"I'm confident that all countries in the world are capable of achieving such feats. We can all aspire for the Moon and beyond," he added.
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The Vikram lander carries multiple instruments to measure the thermal conductivity and temperature of the Moon, analyze seismic activity, and measure plasma density. It will deploy the Pragyan rover, which will melt rocks and study the gasses emitted with its laser-induced spectroscope and X-ray spectrometer.
Space agencies around the world have taken a special interest in the lunar south pole, and believe it holds resources that can help astronauts survive long-term on the Moon.
"Congratulations ISRO on this historic landing," European Space Agency official Rolf Densing said in a statement.
"ESA is proud to support the Chandrayaan-3 mission. Our ground stations are a core element of ESA's support to its international partners, and I am pleased that with this activity, we are further strengthening ESA's relationship with ISRO and with India."
Meanwhile, NASA boss Bill Nelson said: "Congratulations ISRO on your successful Chandrayaan-3 lunar south pole landing! And congratulations to India on being the fourth country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon. We're glad to be your partner on this mission." ®
Updated to add at 0315 UTC, August 24
ISRO has now advised that the Pragyan rover "ramped down from the Lander and India took a walk on the moon!"