Chandrayaan-3: India's spacecraft enters lunar orbit for landing attempt

This is the country's second attempt at touching down on the Moon

India's national space agency Isro launches its third lunar exploration mission, Chandrayaan-3. Epa
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An Indian spacecraft has successfully entered lunar orbit ahead of its highly anticipated Moon landing attempt later this month.

The Chandrayaan-3 lander launched on July 14 from the Satish Dhawan Centre in Sriharikota, an island in the Bay of Bengal, to begin its 40-day journey to the Moon.

This is India's second attempt at landing on the lunar surface, after the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft crashed on the Moon in 2019 due to a software glitch.

"Chandrayaan-3 has been successfully inserted into the lunar orbit," the Indian Space Research Organisation, India's space agency, said.

"A retro-burning at the perilune [the point at which a spacecraft in lunar orbit is closest to the Moon] was commanded from the Mission Operations Complex, Bengaluru."

India launches mission to land spacecraft on Moon's south pole

India launches mission to land spacecraft on Moon's south pole

The spacecraft will attempt a touchdown on the south pole of the Moon, an area that remains unexplored so far.

If successful, it will deploy a rover that will spend one lunar day, or 14 Earth days, capturing data and beaming it back to mission control.

The budget for the Chandrayaan-3 mission is 6.15 billion rupees (about $74 million), while Chandrayaan-2 was about 8.5 billion rupees. India's first lunar mission was 5.41 billion rupees.

Soft landings

So far, only the US, the former Soviet Union and China have been able to land softly on the lunar surface.

Israel had a failed landing in 2019 and a Japanese company called ispace also failed to touch down softly earlier this year. The Hakuto-R lander was carrying the UAE's Rashid rover and other international payloads.

Soft landings are difficult and have less than a 50 per cent success rate.

The Moon has no atmosphere, so a spacecraft cannot be slowed down using parachutes like on Earth and Mars.

Instead, engineers need to use its propulsion system to slow it down and adjust its positioning for a soft touchdown.

ispace's Hakuto-R failed to land on the Moon because the software in the lander miscalculated its altitude, causing it to run out of fuel last minute and crash on the surface.

There are renewed interest in exploring the Moon, as agencies hope to send astronauts to the surface for long-duration missions and then eventually launch them to Mars from there in future.

Updated: August 07, 2023, 5:22 AM