India Aims for Lunar Landmark: Chandrayaan-3’s Historic Quest to the Moon’s South Poles
India is on the brink of making history as it endeavors to be the first nation to conquer the lunar south pole. Operating under the guidance of India’s space agency, an autonomous robotic moon lander known as Chandrayaan-3 is poised to embark on a momentous journey, with its anticipated touchdown scheduled for approximately 8:34 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
This bold move by the world’s most populous nation comes in the wake of a recent setback for Russia. Just days ago, a Russian spacecraft en route to the same lunar south pole area experienced a failure during an orbital maneuver, leading to a crash on the lunar surface. This unfortunate incident dealt a significant blow to Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.
For India, a successful landing by Chandrayaan-3 would mark a monumental achievement. The country has been tirelessly working to establish a stronger presence in the cosmos, both through its government’s space agency and private sector investments.
To date, only three nations have accomplished controlled lunar landings: the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union. The moon’s south pole has captured the fascination of space agencies and scientists for years due to the belief that shadowed craters in this region contain higher concentrations of water ice than other parts of the lunar surface. This attribute could prove pivotal for establishing enduring human settlements on the moon.
NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to reintroduce astronauts to the moon, intends to land the Artemis III mission in the south polar region by 2025.
India and Russia had been engaged in a race to reach the lunar south pole. Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft, which unfortunately crashed, marked the nation’s first moon landing endeavor in nearly five decades. Officials from Roscosmos revealed that contact with the lander was lost after its engines fired in preparation for a descent to the lunar surface.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission is tailored to conduct an array of scientific experiments on the moon’s surface, including assessments of mineral composition and seismic activity. The lander, comparable in size to an SUV, is also carrying a smaller rover. Both solar-powered crafts are designed to function for approximately two weeks on the lunar terrain.
Having taken off on July 14, the Chandrayaan-3 mission marks India’s second attempt to reach the lunar south pole. A prior endeavor in 2019 led to the deployment of a lunar orbiter, but the Chandrayaan-2 lander and rover encountered an unfortunate crash on the moon’s surface.
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