India’s first attempt to put a robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon three years ago ended in a crash and a crater. Now it is ready to try again.
The mission, called Chandrayaan-3, comes amid renewed interest in exploring the moon, but in the past decade, only China has managed to land a spacecraft there in one piece. That could change soon. Chandrayaan-3 is the first of as many as six missions that could successfully land on the moon in the coming months.
When is the launch and how can I watch it?
The launch is scheduled for Friday, July 14, at 5:05 am Eastern time (2:35 pm local time). The Indian Space Research Organization – India’s equivalent of NASA – will begin broadcasting coverage of the flight on its YouTube channel at 4:30 am
What is Chandrayaan-3?
Chandrayaan means “moon craft” in Hindi. After the rocket carrying Chandrayaan-3 lifts off, a propulsion module will push the spacecraft out of Earth’s orbit and then allow the mission to enter orbit around the moon.
Attached to the module are a lander and a rover that will attempt to land on the lunar surface in the south polar region of the moon.
The landing is scheduled for August 23rd or 24th, when the sun will rise at the time of landing, and will end two weeks later when the sun sets. While on the surface, the solar-powered lander and rover will use a range of instruments to make thermal, seismic and mineralogical measurements.
What happened to Chandrayaan-2?
Chandrayaan-3 is basically a handover of part of a moon mission in 2019. After launch, the mission successfully orbits the moon. That mission’s lander, Vikram, and rover, Pragyan, made a landing attempt on September 6, 2019. But at about 1.3 miles above the surface, the lander’s trajectory deviated from the planned path and India’s mission controllers back on the Earth lost contact.
Months later, an amateur Internet sleuth in India used images from a NASA orbiter to find the crash site of the lander and rover, which the American space agency confirmed to be accurate.
While Vikram and Pragyan were lost, the third part of Chandrayaan-2, an orbiter, was successful. The spacecraft continues to travel around the moon, where its instruments are used for scientific study, and it will serve as the communications relay for the new Vikram lander and Pragyan rover on Chandrayaan-3. Therefore, Chandrayaan-3 does not include another orbiter.
Why is India exploring the moon?
India’s space program is a source of national pride, as is the country’s growing cadre of commercial space companies. When the country’s Mangalyaan spacecraft entered orbit around Mars in 2014, children across India were asked to arrive at school by 6:45 am, well before the usual start time, to watch the event on state television.
Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, was at the mission control center in Bengaluru and hailed the Mars mission “as a shining symbol of what we are capable of as a nation.”
For the Chandrayaan-2 landing test, Mr. Modi was again at the space center, but his address later was more subdued. “We have come very close, but we will have to cover more ground in the times to come,” he told the scientists, engineers and staff.
Later in his address, Mr. Modi added: “As important as the end result is the journey and the effort. I can proudly say that the effort was worth it and so was the journey.”
What other plans does India have for its space program?
India is developing a spacecraft, Gaganyaan, to carry astronauts into orbit, which is now expected no earlier than 2025.
The country is increasing its cooperation with the United States for space missions. Earlier this year, the White House announced that NASA would provide training for Indian astronauts “with the goal of making a joint effort to the International Space Station in 2024.”