Upcoming Launch Revives India’s Lunar Landing Dream

India’s space agency is getting ready to launch its latest mission to the Moon, hoping this one will stick the landing on the lunar surface.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will launch the Chandrayaan-3 mission on July 14 at 5:05 a.m. ET. The mission will liftoff from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on board India’s Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3) rocket, according to ISRO.

Chandrayaan-3 is India’s third mission to the Moon and the country’s second attempt to land on the lunar surface. Its predecessor, Chandrayaan-2, crashed on the Moon in September 2019 as it tried to touchdown on its dusty surface. Nearly four years later, ISRO is ready to give the lunar landing another try, hoping to become the fourth country to land on the Moon after the Soviet Union, the U.S. and China.

What is Chandrayaan-3?

The Chandrayaan-3 mission comprises a propulsion module, a lander and a rover. Its main goal is to demonstrate the ability to land on the Moon and roam the lunar surface for exploration to help develop new technologies for interplanetary missions.

The propulsion module will carry the lander and the rover to lunar orbit and the lander-rover pair will attempt to land on the Moon, carrying six scientific instruments to gather data from the surface. The rover is equipped with a laser-induced breakdown spectroscope and an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to study the chemical composition of the surface of the Moon, according to ISRO.

The propulsion module, a box-like structure with one large solar panel mounted on one side and a large cylinder on top, will remain in orbit and act as a communications relay satellite. The lander, equipped with a ramp for deployment, will carry the rover to the surface of the Moon.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission is only meant to last for a half lunar day, which is roughly equal to 14 Earth days.

Landing on the Moon

As part of its ongoing lunar program, India’s space agency first launched Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008. The country’s first deep-space mission sent an orbiter and an impactor probe to the Moon, the latter of which intentionally crashed onto the lunar surface. Chandrayaan-1’s Moon Impact Probe captured images of the Moon’s cratered surface during its descent and detected water ice in the lunar south pole.

For its second mission to the Moon, ISRO attempted a lunar touchdown. Chandrayaan-2 included a lander-rover duo, as well as an orbiter. The space agency lost contact with the Vikram lander when it was around 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) from the lunar surface, and the mission did not achieve its intended soft landing. The orbiter, on the other hand, is still orbiting the Moon.

Third time might be the charm, however, as the Indian space agency prepares to launch its third mission to the Moon. Chandrayaan-3 is expected to make its own landing attempt in August.

Landing on the Moon is no easy feat, as evidenced by Japan’s recent attempt to touchdown on the lunar surface with the privately owned Hakuto-R M1 lander.

India has been making strides with its space program and recently signed onto the Artemis Accords with NASA, making way for increased cooperation on the ongoing lunar program.

ISRO’s upcoming mission to the Moon could be one for the history books.

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