On August 23, 2023, India achieved a historic milestone by successfully landing its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon for the first time. The Vikram lander touched down on the moon’s South Pole six weeks after its launch from Earth. Following the settling of the lunar dust, the Pragyan rover, carried within the Vikram lander, disembarked and started its exploration of the rough south-lunar terrain. The rover’s mission involves investigating craters, collecting crucial data, and capturing images to transmit back to Earth for analysis. To investigate the chemical composition of the lunar soil and identify minerals, Pragyan is equipped with two scientific instruments. Pragyan will communicate the information to Vikram lander, which will relay the data to Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter (which has continued to orbit the moon since 2019). As the Pragyan rover maneuvers across the lunar surface, it will leave behind the imprint of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
Powered by solar energy, the spacecraft executed its landing during a lunar day. Once the lunar night befalls, both the rover and lander will become dormant, limiting their operational span to one lunar day, equivalent to around 14 Earth days. The prospect of reactivation during the subsequent lunar day remains uncertain.
Chandrayaan-3’s primary goal is to investigate the presence of water, a crucial factor in assessing its potential habitability for humans. The success of Chandryaan-3 has not only placed India among an exclusive group consisting of the United States, Russia, and China as the fourth country to achieve a successful lunar landing but also marks the first landing in proximity to the Moon’s South Pole. The lunar South Pole is difficult to land on due to the presence of a large number of boulders. India’s moon mission began in 2008 with Chandryaan-1, which was intentionally crashed into the South Pole and confirmed the presence of water ice. The subsequent Chandrayaan-2 mission, launched in 2019, crashed on the moon. However, its orbiter component is still in the lunar orbit, and it is assisting with the Chandryaan-3 mission.
The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) achievement garnered worldwide acclaim, a commendable feat given its comparatively modest budget in contrast to space agencies like the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Russia’s Roscosmos. Chandrayaan-3 succeeded with a notably modest budget of around $74.58 million, a stark contrast to Russia’s unsuccessful $200 million venture involving a south-pole lander and NASA’s projected expenditure of approximately $433.5 million for an upcoming mission to the lunar South Pole. Interestingly, Chandrayaan-3’s cost was even more economical than that of space-themed films like Interstellar.
Countries with Largest Space Budgets
This financial efficiency was achieved by purposefully designing a compact spacecraft weighing merely 1,752 kilograms. S. Somanath, ISRO’s director, humorously refrained from revealing cost-saving strategies, saying, “We don’t want everyone else to become so cost-effective.”
India’s technological prowess is shining through the success of Chandryaan-3. This success will foster national pride and inspire younger generations to pursue careers in science, technology, and space exploration. This surge of interest is projected to unlock a plethora of new and exciting opportunities for India, spanning various facets of space exploration and technological advancement.
The success of Chandrayaan-3 will provide an impetus to expedite various other space missions and projects. K. Kasturirangan, the former Chairman of ISRO, has emphasized that this triumph not only elevates India’s standing but also grants it a pivotal role and influence in shaping the discourse on outer space exploration and the judicious exploitation of space resources. This newfound status encompasses active engagement in dialogues concerning upcoming space missions, fostering international partnerships for collaborative space ventures, and even playing a potential role in formulating the regulatory frameworks and agreements that oversee the responsible utilization of extraterrestrial resources.
Chandrayaan-3 stands as a testament to India’s perseverance, marking a significant milestone only 15 years after India’s initial endeavor to achieve a lunar landing. Within this accomplishment lie invaluable inspiration and profound lessons for those eager to glean wisdom from its journey. India, unwavering in its commitment to excellence, has consistently entrusted its cherished ISRO into capable hands, nurturing a legacy of achievement. India’s ambitions have now touched the lunar horizon, and with each step forward, India is poised to gather even greater momentum.
Upcoming Lunar Missions
|Country||Organization||Mission||Expected Launch Date|
|China||CNSA||Chang’e 6||May 2024|
|Privately Owned||SpaceX||DearMoon voyage||Late 2023|
|United States of America||NASA||Artemis II||2025-2026|
Taut Bataut – is a researcher and writer that publishes on South Asian geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.