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All eyes on Moon, as Isro says Chandrayaan-3 smooth journey continues

Chandrayaan-3 all set to land on the Moon today, as India hopes to be second time lucky and join a select club

Chandrayaan-3

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Shine Jacob Chennai

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India waited with bated breath on Tuesday, as a mood of anticipation and optimism gripped the nation on the eve of the planned landing of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the Moon.

As Chandrayaan-3 inched closer to the surface of the Moon, situated around 384,400 kilometres from Earth, the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Network in Bengaluru was all set for the landing at 6.04 pm on Wednesday. If successful, it will end the heartache of a failed mission in 2019 and pave India’s entry into an elite club of nations.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) announced on Tuesday that the Rs 600-crore mission was nearing its final act as scheduled, and that the lander module was continuing its smooth journey.

If the mission succeeds, India will become only the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the surface of the Moon — a feat accomplished so far by the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union. “The mission is on schedule. Systems are undergoing regular checks. Smooth sailing continues. The Mission Operations Complex (MOX) is buzzing with energy and excitement!" Isro posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday.

While the MOX and its galleries are expected to be packed on Wednesday, landing operations will be telecast live on the national space agency’s website, YouTube channel and Doordarshan. The lander module comprises the lander (Vikram) and the rover (Pragyan).

On Tuesday, Isro also released images of the Moon captured by the Lander Position Detection Camera (LPDC) from an altitude of about 70 km. These images assist the lander module in determining its position (latitude and longitude) by matching them against an onboard moon reference map.

On Wednesday, the lander module of Chandrayaan-3 will closely monitor the lunar surface from a 100x30 km orbit. From this level, the laser Doppler velocimetry (LDV) meter, which was not part of Chandrayaan-2, will monitor the surface of the Moon. Only after this assessment, two hours before the scheduled landing, Isro will take the final call on its landing.

According to a PTI report, Isro may postpone the touchdown to August 27 in the event that health parameters of the lander module were found to be “abnormal”.

According to Isro’s Space Applications Centre Director Nilesh Desai, the focus of the scientists would be on reducing the speed of the spacecraft above the lunar surface.

“The lander will try to land on the Moon’s surface from a height of 30km on August 23, and its velocity at that time will be 1.68 km per second. Our focus will be on reducing that speed because the Moon’s gravitational force will also play its part,” he told PTI in Ahmedabad.

“If we do not control that speed, there will be chances of a crash landing. If any health parameter (of the lander module) is found abnormal on August 23, then we will postpone the landing to August 27,” he told the news agency.

During the launch of the mission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called it “a new chapter in India’s space odyssey”, as it may boost further investments in the sector.

The fate of Chandrayaan-3 has generated interest globally, especially after Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the Moon after it spun into an uncontrolled orbit on August 20.

“Landing on the Moon will provide us with invaluable insights. I am truly thrilled that India is at the forefront of space exploration and the pursuit of sustainable living on the Moon. These are truly exciting times,” Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams told National Geographic India.

“Filled with enthusiasm for lunar exploration, I’m looking forward to seeing the scientific research that should come out of this landing and the rover taking samples, it is just going to be a great step,” she added in her statement.

 

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First Published: Aug 22 2023 | 6:23 PM IST

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