Science and Exploration

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 Lands Successfully on Moon

By James Careless
August 23, 2023
Filed under , ,
ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 Lands Successfully on Moon
ISRO staff cheer and celebrate Chandrayaan-3’s success.
Image credit: ISRO webcast.

India has landed! The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-3 Vikram lunar lander successfully touched down near the Moon’s South Pole on Wednesday (August 23) at about 6:04 PM Indian Standard Time (8:34 Eastern US).

The final descent appears to have proceeded flawlessly, as Vikram followed its automated landing sequence with no apparent problems. Wave after wave of applause rolled through the Satish Dhawan Space Centre’s mission control room at Sriharikota, India, as Vikram progressed from its final hover at 150 meters to a final slow vertical descent and soft lunar touchdown

Once the dust has settled from this landing, Vikram will open a side panel and a ramp so that its Pragyaan Moon rover can roll down onto the lunar surface. Pragyaan will gather data and photos as it roams the Moon.

Vikram’s south polar landing is the first human mission to reach this region on the Moon, though several nations are trying to. It is believed to have deposits of frozen water that can be harnessed for both human use and to produce rocket propellant. In a very real sense, Chandrayaan-3’s success marks the beginning not just of the next phase of lunar exploration, but humanity’s first steps towards being a multi-planet species.

“India’s successful moon is not India’s alone,” declared Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who watched the landing from Johannesburg, South Africa where he is attending the BRICS summit. “This is a year in which the world is witnessing India’s G20 presidency. Our approach of one Earth, one family, one future is resonating across the globe. This human-centric approach that we present and we represent has been welcome universally. Our moon mission is also based on the same human-centric approach. Therefore, this success belongs to all of humanity, and it will help moon missions by other countries in the future.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the world after the Chandrayaan-3 landing. Image credit: ISRO livestream.

According to the ISRO Chandrayaan-3 mission website, the rover is equipped with an Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) for deriving the elemental composition in the vicinity of the landing site. Meanwhile, the Vikram lander has a Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) to measure the landing site’s thermal conductivity and temperature; and an Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) for measuring seismicity around the site. Vikram also has a Langmuir Probe (LP) to estimate plasma density and its variations, and a passive Laser Retroreflector Array from NASA to be used for lunar laser ranging studies.

Chandrayaan-3’s landing date was specifically chosen to coincide with the start of a lunar day, which is 28 Earth days long. This was done to maximize the time in which Vikram and Pragyaan’s solar panels can have access to sunlight to charge their batteries — the mission is only expected to last the duration of that one lunar day.

India’s successful mission makes it the second Earth nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon this century. China was the first. The United States and Russia have not done so since the 20th century. Russia’s most recent attempt ended in failure on August 20 when its Luna 25 lander crashed into the Moon’s surface.

SpaceRef editor Keith Cowing’s note: I did an interview with Deutsche Welle about Chandrayaan-3. They aired an intro piece before me where they talked with a family in India and their children’s reactions to the landing and I almost had tears in my eyes since, as I said in my interview that was me as a little boy. [DW Audio]. I also did an interview with CGTN talking about how the Moon is a place that everyone can and should visit. [CGTN Audio]

James Careless

James Careless is an award-winning satellite communications writer. He has covered the industry since the 1990s.