India’s third lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3, took another big step towards the Moon on Thursday. Space agency Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said on 17 August that the lander module (LM) of Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, which comprises of the Vikram lander and a rover, had successfully separated from the spacecraft’s propulsion module.
In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), Isro said the LM was set to descend to a slightly lower orbit upon a deboosting planned for tomorrow (18 August) around 1600 hrs IST. India now has three satellites around the Moon, the space agency added in its post. It also said that the propulsion module will continue its journey in the current orbit for months/years. The SHAPE payload on board the module will perform a spectroscopic study of the Earth’s atmosphere and measure the variations in polarization from the clouds on Earth – to accumulate signatures of exoplanets that would qualify for our habitability.
The mission successfully took off from the second launch pad at SDSC-SHAR, in Sriharikota, on board the LVM3 heavy lift launch vehicle, on 14 July. According to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report, after its launch, Chandrayaan-3 entered into the lunar orbit on 5 August, following which orbit reduction maneuvers were carried out on 6, 9, 14 and 16 August. “As the mission progressed, a series of maneuvers are being conducted by ISRO to gradually reduce Chandrayaan-3's orbit and position it over the lunar poles... The spacecraft is scheduled to make a soft landing on the south polar region of the Moon on August 23,” the PTI report adds.
Chandrayaan-3 Mission:— ISRO (@isro) August 17, 2023
‘Thanks for the ride, mate! 👋’
said the Lander Module (LM).
LM is successfully separated from the Propulsion Module (PM)
LM is set to descend to a slightly lower orbit upon a deboosting planned for tomorrow around 1600 Hrs., IST.
Now, 🇮🇳 has3⃣ 🛰️🛰️🛰️… pic.twitter.com/rJKkPSr6Ct
A follow-on mission to Chandrayaan-2, which was launched in July 2019, Chandrayaan-3 aims to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface. The mission is also expected to help Isro’s future plans for interplanetary missions.
Earlier this month, Russia also launched its Luna-25 mission, as it aims to return to the Moon for the first time in almost 50 years. Unlike India, a PTI report explains, Russia is taking a more direct trajectory to the Moon, potentially allowing it to attempt a landing as early as August 21, just 10 days since its launch.
Only the US, Russia and China have previously achieved a controlled landing on the lunar surface.