Chandrayaan-3, India’s latest mission to the moon, is set to undertake its key final stage today as the unmanned spacecraft attempts a soft landing on the lunar surface — 40 days after its launch from the southern part of the South Asian nation.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will livestream the launch that will begin at 4:50 am PT on August 23 (5:20 pm IST), more than half an hour before the targeted landing time of 5:34 am PT (6:04pm IST).
On Tuesday, ISRO confirmed that the mission was on schedule and said the systems were undergoing regular checks, and smooth sailing continued.
Launched in July through ISRO’s Launch Vehicle Mark-3 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in South India’s Sriharikota island, Chandrayaan-3 is India’s third lunar mission. It aims to land on the lunar south pole, far from the side facing the Earth. It is believed that this region may hold essential secrets about the moon, including the potential existence of frozen water that could help support human habitation on the natural satellite and could potentially be used as fuel for future missions to distant locations.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission is the follow-up to the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, which crashed before landing on the moon in 2019. The Indian space agency has made a number of improvements in the Chandrayaan-3 lander to handle additional dispersion, as well as included updated sensors and integrated improved software and propulsion systems to minimize the chances of any failures this time.
Apart from the lander, the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft includes a propulsion module and a rover. The latter is identical to that of Chandrayaan-2.
The spacecraft includes sensors such as a seismometer, thermal probe, X-ray and laser spectrometer. It also carries a retroflector from NASA.
Earlier this week, ISRO shared images of the moon’s far side taken by the Chandrayaan-3 lander called Vikram. The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, which is orbiting the moon and will assist in connecting the Chandrayaan-3 rover with the Earth’s space station, also recently communicated with the new spacecraft’s lander.
Should Chandrayaan-3 be successful, India will become the first country to land on the lunar south pole. The mission’s success will also make the country the fourth to achieve a soft landing on the moon, following the United States, former Soviet Union and China. Earlier this month, Russia attempted to take on India by launching its moon landing spacecraft Luna-25. The Russian spacecraft, however, collided onto the moon’s surface after losing control on Saturday.