“India, I reached my destination and you too!": A message from the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft from the south polar region of the Moon.
The disappointment and agony from 2019 and Chandrayaan-2 were erased on Wednesday as Chandrayaan-3's Vikram lander successfully touched down near the south pole region of the Moon at approximately 6.04 pm, IST. With this achievement, India became only the fourth nation in the world to perform a soft landing on the lunar surface after the former Soviet Union, the US and China, and the first to reach the south polar region of Earth's closest celestial neighbour.
Built on a budget of ₹615 crore, India’s third lunar exploration mission was launched on 14 July from the second launch pad at SDSC-SHAR, in Sriharikota, on board the LVM3 heavy lift launch vehicle.
The landing marks yet another key achievement for the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and India, after becoming the first Asian nation to put a craft into orbit around Mars in 2014, with Mangalyaan.
In a statement on 20 August, Isro said the achievement marked “a significant step forward for Indian Science, Engineering, Technology, and Industry, symbolising our nation's progress in space exploration... The soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 is a monumental moment that not only fuels curiosity but also sparks a passion for exploration within the minds of our youth,” the space agency said on its website.
The Vikram lander, named after Indian physicist Vikram Sarabhai, and Pragyaan rover will now undertake numerous scientific activities to understand more about the Moon’s chemical composition and geological history.
Both the lander and the solar-powered rover have a mission life of 1 lunar day, which is roughly 14 Earth days. Chandrayaan 3’s propulsion module, according to Isro, is also carrying a Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planetary Earth (Shape) payload to study the spectral and polarimetric measurements of earth from the lunar orbit.
Congratulating Isro on the momentous feat, Somak Raychaudhury, vice-chancellor at Ashoka University said that the success of Chandrayaan-3 was a crowning achievement for all Indians. “I congratulate ISRO on this remarkable feat. What sets it apart is that we have become the first nation to land on the Far Side of the Moon, demonstrating our prowess in space engineering, ability to innovate and scientific rigour. Chandrayaan-3 is the culmination of decades of relentless pursuit of excellence by our scientists, and at the same time it is a stepping stone for our country’s ambitious space exploration programmes," Raychaudhury said on email, adding that the mission will unravel the mysteries of the moon, giving insights into our own planet’s history, help us prepare for our first human landing, and pave the way for future habitation.
Chandrayaan-3 also has massive global implications as multiple nations participate in what has become a modern-day space race to the Moon. Nasa administrator Bill Nelson told Reuters that the US space agency was "looking forward" to what would be learned from the Indian mission. Chandrayaan-3's soft landing comes days after the Russian Luna 25 lander crashed while aiming to land in the same region.
“Chandrayaan-3 is an enormous historical event. The capability of ISRO to not only reach the moon's vicinity but to achieve a controlled descent and successful landing on its surface, particularly focusing on the captivating regions near the south pole basked in perpetual sunlight and hosting water-filled deep craters, signifies a pivotal and ground-breaking juncture,” said Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, during a live telecast on National Geographic India on 23 August.
Isro’s upcoming missions include the Aditya-L1, the first space-based Indian observatory to study the Sun, and Gaganyaan, which is expected to mark India’s entry into human spaceflight.