Chandrayaan-3: Two out of three objectives accomplished, what’s next for the ongoing ‘moonwalk’?

On August 23, 2023, a significant historical milestone was achieved as India accomplished the remarkable feat of successfully landing its spacecraft, Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander, on the Moon’s south pole, positioning India as the fourth country to achieve such a landing. This accomplishment was marked by the emergence of the ‘Pragyan’ rover, weighing 26 kg and equipped with six wheels, from the lander’s compartment several hours after the momentous landing. Recent updates from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have reported that the Pragyan rover has covered a distance of approximately eight meters on the lunar surface, and its associated payloads have been activated.

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Key developments in Chandrayaan-3’s lunar journey include:

1.In the aftermath of the soft lunar landing on August 23, ISRO shared the initial image captured by Vikram’s camera, showcasing a segment of Chandrayaan-3’s landing site, along with the leg of the lander and its corresponding shadow. The chosen lunar site is relatively level in nature.

2.A vital communication link between the lander and ISRO’s Mission Operations Complex (MOX) in Bengaluru was established. Images from the Lander Horizontal Velocity Camera, taken during the lander’s descent, were also released, contributing to the mission’s progress updates.

3.The following day, on August 24, ISRO announced the commencement of the Pragyan rover’s mobility operations after it disembarked from the lander. The agency confirmed that all activities were proceeding as planned, with all systems functioning normally.

4.Furthermore, ISRO conveyed that all payloads on the Lander Module (LM) had been activated, signaling a crucial stage of the mission’s progress. This included the activation of payloads such as ILSA, RAMBHA, ChaSTE, and SHAPE, each contributing to the mission’s objectives.

5.On August 25, ISRO released a video showcasing the Pragyan rover’s deployment from the Vikram lander and its movement on the lunar surface. Additionally, another video depicted the process by which a two-segment ramp facilitated the rover’s deployment, highlighting the role of a solar panel in generating power.

6.Subsequently, ISRO updated that the Pragyan rover had covered a distance of approximately eight meters on the lunar surface, with all payloads on the propulsion module, lander module, and rover operating nominally.

7.On August 26, ISRO declared the accomplishment of two out of the three primary objectives of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, while the third objective, involving in-situ scientific experiments, was in progress. All payloads were reported to be functioning normally.

8.Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the naming of the landing sites: the soft landing spot of the Vikram lander as “Shiv Shakti Point” and the crash-landing site of the Chandrayaan-2 lander in 2019 as “Tiranga Point.”

9.August 23 was designated as ‘National Space Day’ by Prime Minister Modi to commemorate the Chandrayaan-3 lander’s successful landing on the lunar surface.

S Somanath, the ISRO chief, expressed optimism regarding the mission’s scientific objectives. He confirmed that most of the scientific goals had been achieved, with both the lander and rover operational. The scientific data gathered from the Moon was promising, and the team was eagerly anticipating further progress over the next two weeks.

Somnath also provided an update on the Aditya-L1 satellite, India’s first space-based solar observatory. The satellite is prepared and set to launch from Sriharikota in the first week of September, with the exact date to be announced shortly.

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