India’s space agency ISRO is on the cusp of a groundbreaking moment as it prepares to initiate the automatic landing sequence of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, aimed at the Moon’s enigmatic south pole. The Lunar Lander Module (LM) is set to arrive at its designated point around 5.44 pm local time, marking the commencement of a pivotal phase in this lunar exploration endeavor.
The “20 Minutes of Terror”
Once the landing command is activated, the LM’s engines will engage, initiating a powered descent – an event dubbed the “20 minutes of terror.” The module’s descent phase will be broadcast live starting at 5.20 pm Indian time, a significant moment for space enthusiasts and the general public alike.
Precision Maneuvers for a Soft Landing
During this critical maneuver, the Vikram lander will rapidly descend toward the lunar surface at a speed of approximately 1.68km per second. To ensure a successful soft landing, the lander’s engines must fire precisely to align the probe vertically with the Moon’s surface. The anticipated landing time is around 6.04 pm local time.
International Collaboration for Success
ISRO’s collaboration with space agencies Nasa and ESA has played a pivotal role in guiding the Chandrayaan-3 mission. Tracking stations worldwide have united their efforts to ensure a safe trajectory toward the Moon. European Space Agency’s Operation Centre expressed its readiness, noting, “All systems Green at ESA for today’s Chandrayaan-3 Moon landing attempt.” Nasa’s Deep Space Network, a network of colossal radio antennas, has provided critical tracking coverage and telemetry assistance.
Aiming for Lunar Scientific Discoveries
Chandrayaan-3’s primary goal is to place a lander and rover in the highlands near the Moon’s south pole, a region known to contain water ice. This mission aims to conduct scientific studies both from the lunar surface and orbit. The Vikram lander carries various instruments, including tools to measure the Moon’s surface thermal properties, seismic activity, gas, and plasma environment, and even a laser device for lunar ranging studies.
Watching the Historic Moment Unfold
The live coverage of Chandrayaan-3’s Moon landing will begin at 5.20 pm Indian Standard Time (11.50 am GMT/UTC), accessible through multiple platforms including the ISRO Website, YouTube, and ISRO’s Facebook page. The successful discovery of water ice on the lunar surface could have far-reaching implications, potentially inspiring nations to tap into lunar resources.
Challenges and Preparations
Past attempts to land on the Moon’s south pole have been fraught with challenges. In 2019, Chandrayaan-2’s lander faced communication loss and ultimately crashed during the critical descent phase. Learning from these experiences, ISRO Chairman S Somnath expressed confidence, stating that all preparations have been meticulously carried out, setting the stage for a successful mission.
By closely tracking ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, we witness India’s determined journey toward achieving an unprecedented lunar milestone.