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Chandrayaan-3: India’s Next Step in Lunar Exploration

chandrayaan-3-mission

India’s Third Moon Mission: Chandrayaan-3

India is ready to launch its third mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-3, on Friday, 14 July 2023. The mission will try to land softly on the Moon’s highlands, which only three countries have done before: the United States, Russia and China. Chandrayaan-3 will also send a rover to explore and analyze the lunar surface.
chandrayaan-3-mission
Image Credit: ISRO

Table of Content

What is Chandrayaan-3?

Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-up mission to Chandrayaan-2, which tried to land softly on the Moon’s south pole in September 2019 but crashed hard. Chandrayaan-3 will have a lander and a rover similar to Chandrayaan-2, but no orbiter. Its propulsion module will act like a communication relay satellite.

The mission will be launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) from Sriharikota at 2.35 pm IST. The launch window is between 13 and 16 July 2023. The landing is planned for 23 or 24 August 2023.

What are the goals of Chandrayaan-3?

The main goal of Chandrayaan-3 is to show India’s ability to land softly on the Moon and operate a robotic rover on the lunar terrain. The mission will also do scientific experiments to study the Moon’s geology, mineralogy, surface temperature, seismic activity and atmosphere.

The lander will have four scientific payloads: Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA), Chandra’s Surface Thermo physical Experiment (ChaSTE), Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) and Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA).

The rover will have two payloads: Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS). The propulsion module will have one payload: Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE).

The lander and rover will talk to each other and to the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) on Earth. Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, which is still working around the Moon, will also provide backup link if needed.

Why is Chandrayaan-3 important?

Chandrayaan-3 is important for India’s space dreams as well as for global lunar exploration. The mission will show India’s technological skill and scientific potential in the field of space exploration. It will also help the global knowledge of the Moon’s origin, evolution and resources.

The mission will aim for a landing site near the lunar south pole, which is very interesting for future human and robotic missions. The lunar south pole region is thought to have a lot of water ice and other volatiles in permanently shadowed craters, which could be useful for using resources on the spot. The region also has high scientific value as it has been exposed to less solar radiation and meteorite impacts than other parts of the Moon.

Chandrayaan-3 is expected to make way for more exciting lunar missions by India in the future, such as Chandrayaan-4, which may involve bringing samples back or landing humans.

What is the difference between Chandrayaan-2 and 3?

The main thing that sets Chandrayaan-2 and Chandrayaan-3 apart is that the latter will not have an orbiter, but only a lander and a rover. The orbiter of Chandrayaan-2 is still working and will be used as a communication relay for Chandrayaan-3.

Another thing that makes Chandrayaan-3 different is that it will have several changes and upgrades in the lander, rover and propulsion module to avoid the problems faced by Chandrayaan-2, which could not achieve a soft landing on the Moon due to a hard crash.

Some of the changes are:

  • Stronger legs for the lander to handle higher landing velocity
  • More fuel for the lander to deal with more disruptions and have more buffer to handle the mission
  • A new sensor called the laser doppler velocity metre for the lander to measure the velocity components using laser sounding
  • Upgraded software for the lander to have more tolerance to failures like engine disruptions, thrust disruptions, sensor failures, etc
  • Removal of the central or fifth engine for the lander, which was added last minute during Chandrayaan-2
  • A new payload called Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) for the propulsion module, which will conduct spectral and polarimetric measurements of Earth from lunar orbit

FAQs

Q: What is Chandrayaan-3?
A: Chandrayaan-3 is India’s third lunar exploration mission, which will attempt a soft landing on the Moon’s highlands and deploy a rover to study the lunar surface. It is a follow-up mission to Chandrayaan-2, which failed to achieve a soft landing in September 2019.

Q: When will Chandrayaan-3 launch?
A: Chandrayaan-3 is expected to launch on July 14, 2023 at 2.35 pm IST from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. The launch window is between 13 and 16 July 2023.

Q: How will Chandrayaan-3 reach the Moon?
A: Chandrayaan-3 will be launched by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) rocket, which will inject the spacecraft into an Earth parking orbit. From there, the propulsion module will perform a series of orbit-raising maneuvers to reach the lunar transfer trajectory. The propulsion module will then insert the spacecraft into a lunar orbit and perform orbit-lowering maneuvers to reach the desired orbit for landing.

Q: Where will Chandrayaan-3 land?
A: Chandrayaan-3 will target a landing site near the lunar south pole region, which is of great interest for future human and robotic missions. The landing site is a 4 km x 2.4 km area located at 69.367621 S, 32.348126 E.

Q: What are the components of Chandrayaan-3?
A: Chandrayaan-3 will consist of a lander module, a rover module and a propulsion module. The lander module will carry the rover inside it and perform the soft landing on the Moon. The rover module will detach from the lander and explore the lunar surface for one lunar day (about 14 Earth days). The propulsion module will provide thrust and attitude control for the entire mission and act as a communication relay satellite.

Q: What are the payloads of Chandrayaan-3?
A: Chandrayaan-3 will carry seven scientific payloads, four on the lander and two on the rover.

The lander payloads are:
  • Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA), which will study the plasma environment of the Moon
  • Chandra’s Surface Thermo physical Experiment (ChaSTE), which will measure the thermal conductivity and temperature gradient of the lunar surface
  • Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA), which will detect seismic events on the Moon
  • Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA), which will serve as a passive reflector for laser ranging measurements from Earth

The rover payloads are:

  • Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), which will determine the elemental composition of the lunar surface
  • Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS), which will measure the abundance of major elements in the lunar soil

The propulsion module payload is:

  • Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE), which will conduct spectral and polarimetric measurements of Earth from lunar orbit
Q: How will Chandrayaan-3 communicate with Earth?
A:
Chandrayaan-3 will communicate with Earth through the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN), which consists of two large antennas located in Byalalu, near Bangalore. The lander and rover will communicate with each other and with IDSN directly. The propulsion module will also communicate with IDSN and provide contingency link for the lander and rover if needed. Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, which is still operational around the Moon, will also provide backup link if needed.

Q: How can I watch Chandrayaan-3 launch live?

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