India’s space agency is set to launch its homegrown Chandrayaan-3 moon mission from the southeastern island of Sriharikota, at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on July 14 at 2:35pm local time (09:05 GMT).
Built on a budget of just under $75m, Chandrayaan – “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit – will attempt to land a rover on the moon and establish India as a formidable force in space exploration.
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A 43.5-metre (143-feet) Launch Vehicle Mark-III, or LVM3, launch rocket will blast the spacecraft into an elliptical Earth orbit before it loops towards the moon for a scheduled landing near the moon’s south pole around August 23.
If successful, Chandrayaan-3 will make India the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon, joining the Soviet Union, the United States and China.
What are the mission’s objectives?
The mission has three main objectives:
- First, it must achieve a safe and soft landing on the moon.
- Second, its Pragyan rover should be able to move around on the lunar surface.
- Third, it should conduct scientific observations, focusing on the moon’s composition.
The six-wheeled Pragyan rover will have two payloads – two spectrometers will attempt to find materials from the ancient lunar crust.
In addition, one payload, the Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE), will measure spectral and polarimetric radiation and understand what signatures of habitable Earth-like planets could look like.
The mission life for the rover and lander is scheduled to be about one lunar day (roughly 14 Earth days).
— ISRO (@isro) July 5, 2023
Since 1958, there have been 70 successful and partially successful missions by six nations to the moon — though many of them have orbited Earth’s only satellite without landing. A further 41 flights were not successful, according to NASA’s archive.
During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the United States and USSR were the only countries that attempted missions to the moon. Between them, the two Cold War rivals attempted at least 90 moon missions, 40 of which were unsuccessful.
During the 1980s, no lunar missions were launched.
In 1990, Japan joined the space race with its Hiten Orbiter. In the 2000s, China, India and the European Space Agency launched their first successful orbital missions to the moon.
In 2019, India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission successfully deployed an orbiter but lost contact with its lander and crash-landed near where Chandrayaan-3 will attempt a touchdown.
Where can you watch the launch?
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), will be live streaming the event on its YouTube page. The coverage is expected to start about an hour before liftoff.