Chandrayaan-3 - A Milestone for India's Space Exploration and Science Program - Seeker's Thoughts

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Chandrayaan-3 - A Milestone for India's Space Exploration and Science Program

 Indians cheered and applauded when the lunar lander, rover, and orbiter successfully touched down on its surface, marking an achievement for their nation and proof of its aspirations to become an influential great power.

ISRO designed Chandrayaan-3 to include more safeguards than its predecessor mission that failed in 2019, yet the key learning came from failure itself.

What is Chandrayaan-3?

India made history earlier when two visitors from its space program -- Vikram and Pragyan -- made history when they successfully landed on the lunar surface. 

The feat solidified India's global status as a space power, joining only a select few other nations who have accomplished such an accomplishment.

Chandrayaan-3 also marked a key moment in ISRO's ability to handle large payloads, showcasing ISRO's skill at handling them effectively. 

Furthermore, this mission demonstrated their capability of reaching high latitudes on the Moon; essential for landing near its southern pole where scientists believe there could be water ice deposits which can serve as fuel for future exploration of this celestial body.

Chandrayaan-3 arrived at the Moon and immediately transitioned into an elliptical orbit - consisting of an elongated ellipse and an inclination - so as to align itself with lunar surface. Once in position, its engines ignited for 690 seconds to gently lower itself to gravitational pull of Moon over about two hours of gentle descent.

Once on the Moon, both vehicles will utilize their payloads to gather data about its environment, such as an onboard seismometer to sense moonquakes and laser-based instrument to measure ground temperatures. They will also transmit this data back to Earth for analysis.

What is the Mission Goal?

Chandrayaan-3's ultimate purpose is to establish India as one of only a select few nations who have successfully launched spacecraft onto other worlds. This mission boasts both technology and scientific components - testing for signs of life on the lunar surface which could play an essential part in future human space missions.

This mission also attempted to land at the Moon's south pole, an increasingly active site due to new discoveries of ice deposits there. While its earlier attempt was thwarted due to software issues, mission scientists appear to have learned valuable lessons and are taking extra precautionary measures this time around to avoid such issues arising again.

ISRO engineers have addressed many of the issues plaguing Chandrayaan-2 by streamlining its mission design and adding hardware improvements, such as eliminating its orbiter in favor of using its propulsion module as its communication hub while ferrying its rover and lander to the Moon. This approach reduced weight and complexity significantly while improving reliability.

ISRO experts have carefully divided up their target landing zone into 3,900 equal-sized subsections and assessed each one to assess whether it met all safety parameters before proceeding with landing attempts. Should any parameters not meet, an onboard computer will identify an alternative landing site and proceed accordingly.

What is the Mission Objective?

Chandrayaan-3 mission's primary purpose is to demonstrate that humans can safely land a rover on the Moon and conduct in-situ scientific experiments, according to ISRO website. 

Additionally, this mission seeks to increase knowledge about Moon; using sensors the lander will study lunar surface composition while its companion rover collects data about environment and history of Moon.

Chandrayaan-3 utilized a propulsion module to propel its lander and rover towards lunar orbit. Once in lunar orbit, Chandrayaan-3's lander separated from its propulsion module and initiate its landing process; expected touchdown will occur sometime near late August on Moon's south polar region.

Due to much smaller rockets than those used by Apollo, ISRO needed to enter several trajectories before heading towards its target - ISRO can monitor this progress from their control center in Bengaluru while ESA's 15-metre antenna at Kourou in French Guiana will provide tracking support via Deep Space Network.

What is the Mission Design?

Chandrayaan-3 included both an orbiter and lander; its lander searched the Moon's south pole region for water ice that could help future human explorers survive on its surface, and study both its surface and subsurface to assess whether there are sufficient minerals there for building bases there.

India has placed much hope and faith in this mission, and Prime Minister Modi is sitting in the control room watching it all unfold - a tradition begun during his first visit to a space center back in 2014 when he comforted ISRO scientists after an unsuccessful moon landing attempt.

ISRO engineers have learned much from the failure of Vikram lander and made significant modifications for Chandrayaan-3. For instance, this time around its design will have more fuel capacity and the capability of changing landing sites should something go amiss; also expanding the target landing zone from 4km x 2.5km to include more potential landing locations.

What is the Mission System?

Communication on the moon is of utmost importance: without it, operators cannot know how a spacecraft is performing or even whether or not it still lives. Satellites and ground stations rely on large dish antennas to send commands, receive data and relay it back to operators - for Chandrayaan-3 specifically, ESA's Kourou station in French Guiana and Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd in the UK are providing invaluable assistance along with NASA's Deep Space Network support.

Chandrayaan-3 launched on July 14 and headed in a circular, fuel-efficient path toward lunar orbit. By August 5 it had already made progress toward lunar surface exploration, meeting up with Russia's Luna-25 spacecraft as it raced toward it.

Chandrayaan-3 follows in the footsteps of India's Chandrayaan-2 mission and features an orbiter, lander, and rover. The lander will operate for two weeks lunar days before deploying Pragyan, an 83-pound six-wheeled rover designed to explore lunar south pole craters rich with ice deposits. To prevent any failure that thwarted prior missions, ISRO built in additional redundancies and safeguards this time around.

What is the Mission Schedule?

Chandrayaan-3  took off from India's Satish Dhawan Space Centre on July 14, at 2.35 p.m. (IST), with an expected landing around August 1.  India's Chandrayaan-3 mission marked its first successful landing close to the South Pole of the Moon where water ice may provide fuel or be utilized as an aid for future missions on this distant world.

After detaching from its propulsion module, the lander used solar-powered batteries to run various science experiments and use its camera and laser spectrometer to take images of the Moon as well as measure its composition using laser spectrometry. Once detached from its propulsion module, its solar batteries will power science experiments while its camera captures images while laser spectrometer analyzes lunar soil composition. Following which, its rover will roll off from under its belly and begin exploring.

ISRO hopes Chandrayaan-3 will unveil new secrets about the Moon's chemical and mineral composition that could reveal significant milestones for their space program and advance India's space ambitions and knowledge base. ISRO anticipates Chandrayaan-3 unveiling new details about Chandrayaan-3 as an indicator for success on this mission.

What is the Mission Status?

Chandrayaan-3 descended safely to the lunar surface following a successful orbital maneuver, then deployed its solar-powered rover for further investigation of chemical composition, geology and key details of lunar terrain. Pictures and data sent back by chandrayaan-3's solar rover  then be relayed back to Earth via Chandrayaan-3 lander.

An Indian spacecraft landing successfully marked a remarkable achievement, placing India among only a select group of nations that have accomplished this feat with much lower budgets than global counterparts.

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