India has become the fourth country to successfully land on the moon as the Chandrayaan-3’s lander module, with the rover in its belly, successfully made a soft landing on the lunar surface on Wednesday.
Precisely at 6.03 p.m. the lander touched the lunar surface and there were euphoric celebrations at the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Network (ISTRAC), Bengaluru, as India joined an elite list of countries including the United States, Russia and China to achieve the feat, becoming the first nation to touch down on the polar region of the moon.
“We have achieved soft landing on the moon; India is on the moon,” ISRO Chairman S. Somanath said on Wednesday.
Mr. Somanath said the lander had achieved most of the nominal conditions of landing, including the velocity of touchdown. “The velocity was less than 2 metres per second, this gives us a lot of confidence that the health of lander is very good to carry out all the planned experiments, including the Pragyaan rover coming out. We are looking for [an] exciting 14 days from now,” Mr. Somanath said.
ISRO said communication link was established between the lander and MOX-ISTRAC, Bengaluru. It also shared images taken by the lander horizontal velocity camera during the descent.
The successful landing on Wednesday has erased the painful memories of failure of the Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander in 2019.
During the descent, the Vikram lander gave up at an altitude of 2.1 km before touchdown and crashed on the lunar surface. It subsequently lost communication with the ground stations.
However, this time everything went as per plan.
Around 5.44 p.m., the powered descent of the lander module was initiated. The powered descent is divided into four phases — rough braking, attitude-hold, fine-braking and terminal descent phase. The lander completed each of these phases seamlessly and 19 minutes later at 6.03 p.m. the lander had made a safe and soft landing on the moon.
Following the successful landing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation from South Africa and said India’s successful moon mission was not India’s success alone. “This is a year in which the world is witnessing India’s G-20 presidency. Our approach of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’ is resonating across the globe. This human-centric approach that we represent has been welcomed universally. Our moon mission is also based on the same human-centric approach.”
He added that this success belonged to all of humanity. And it would help moon missions by other countries in the future. “I am confident that all countries in the world, including those from the Global South, are capable of achieving such feats. We can all aspire for the moon and beyond,” Mr. Modi said.
“India has reached the South Pole of the moon where no country in the world could reach to date with the dedication and talent of our scientists”, the Prime Minister added.
The lander will deploy the rover which will carry out in-situ chemical analysis of the lunar surface during the course of its mobility. The lander and the rover, with a mission life of one Lunar day (14 Earth days), have scientific payloads to carry out experiments on the lunar surface.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission was launched on July 14 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
Chandrayaan-3 consists of an indigenous lander module, a propulsion module and a rover with an objective of developing and demonstrating new technologies required for inter-planetary missions.
The objectives of the mission are to demonstrate safe and soft landing on lunar surface, to demonstrate rover roving on the moon and conduct in-situ scientific experiments.
The soft landing took place mere days after Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft had crashed into the moon after spinning out of control.
The lander with four legs had multiple sensors to ensure a safe touchdown, including an accelerometer, altimeters, doppler velocimeter, inclinometer, touchdown sensor, and a suite of cameras for hazard avoidance and positional knowledge.
The team behind Chandrayan-3’s success
Soon after the ISRO achieved the historic feat of landing on the lunar south pole, Mr. Somanath introduced the key members who enabled India to achieve the task flawlessly.
P. Veeramuthuvel, Project Director, Chandrayaan-3, said, “It is a great moment of happiness, it gives me immense satisfaction on achieving this goal as Project Director of this mission. The entire mission operations from launch till landing happened flawlessly as per the timeline and we have become the fourth country to demonstrate the soft landing on the moon and the first country to go to the south pole of the moon.”
Thanking the navigation guidance and control team, propulsion team, sensors team and all the mainframe subsystems teams, who have brought success to the mission, Mr. Veeramuthuvel also expressed his gratitude to the critical operations review committee for thoroughly reviewing the mission operations right from the launch.
“The target was [spot on], because of the review process,” he said, as he acknowledged the contribution of the Chandrayaan-3 project executives working across various ISRO centres.
Sreekanth, Mission Director, Chandrayaan-3, said, “It gives me immense pleasure to be part of Chandrayaan-3 and as Mission Director, I would like to thank each and every team member who has supported in carrying out all the mission operations flawlessly.”
Calling it a memorable moment, Kalpana K., Associate Project Director, Chandrayaan-3, said, “We have achieved our goal flawlessly after rebuilding our spacecraft. It has been breath in and out for our team.”
M. Sankaran, Director of U.R. Rao Satellite Centre, said, “Today we have achieved what we set out to achieve in 2019. It was delayed by four years but we have done it.” He was referring to the failed landing of Chandrayaan-2 in 2019.
“As the Prime Minister mentioned, we will now be looking at putting man in space, putting spacecraft around Venus and landing a craft on Mars,” he said.