Chandrayaan - 3 [Latest Updates for UPSC]

India’s third lunar mission, Chandrayaan – 3 made history on August 23, 2023, by successfully achieving a soft landing on the south pole of the moon. With this, India became the first nation to land on the moon’s south pole and the fourth (after Russia, the US and China) to land successfully on Earth’s only natural satellite. In this article, you will learn all you need to know about the Chandrayaan III mission for the UPSC exam. This topic is important for the science and technology segment of the UPSC syllabus.

Chandrayaan-3 Mission

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had undertaken two previous missions to the moon, namely, the Chandrayaan I and the Chandrayaan II. Chandrayaan-1 was launched in 2008 and lasted till 2009 after communications to it were lost. The mission, among other things, tested a crash landing on the lunar surface. Chandrayaan-2, launched in 2019 attempted a soft landing on the moon but failed. The third mission, Chandrayaan-3 took into account the drawbacks and lessons learnt from the second mission and successfully achieved soft landing.

Objectives of Chandrayaan 3 Mission

  • To demonstrate a safe and soft landing on the lunar surface
  • To demonstrate rover roving on the moon
  • To conduct in-situ scientific experiments

Chandrayaan III Features

Chandrayaan 3 Payloads

Chandrayaan 3 mission’s lander is named Vikram and the rover Pragyan, like those of the second mission.

  • The mission consists of a lander module, a propulsion module, and a rover.
  • The propulsion module payload is the Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE).
    • SHAPE has the objective of exploring exo-planets for habitability by studying reflected light. 
  • The payloads on the lander Vikram are:
    • Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) to measure the thermal conductivity and temperature
    • Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) for measuring the seismicity around the landing site
    • Langmuir Probe (LP) to estimate the plasma density and its variations
    • A passive Laser Retroreflector Array from NASA for lunar laser ranging studies
  • The payloads on the rover Pragyan are:
    • Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS)
    • Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS)
  • The advanced technologies present in the payloads help in conducting scientific experiments on the moon.
  • The mission’s life is one lunar day or 14 earth days.
  • The budget of the Chandrayaan-3 mission is Rs 615 crore.

Chandrayaan 3 Mission Timeline

  • Chandrayaan-3 mission took off on July 14, 2023 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, A.P.
  • On August 5, the mission entered the lunar orbit.
  • On August 17, the lander module separated from the propulsion module.
  • The first and second deboosting occurred on August 18 and 20 respectively.
    • Deboosting is the slowing down of the spacecraft in an orbit where the Perilune (closest point to the Moon) is 30 km, and the farthest point (the Apolune) is 100 km from the landing site. 
    • This process is necessary for the proper landing of the spacecraft.
  • On August 23, the lander landed at around 69.36°S and 32.34°E (between Manzinus C and Simpelius N craters) on the south pole of the moon.
  • On August 24, the rover Pragyan started its exploration.
  • On August 30, Pragyan confirmed the presence of sulphur on the moon through the LIBS technique. 
    • Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is a scientific method using intense laser pulses to analyse material composition.

How is Chandrayaan 3 Different from Chandrayaan 2?

Many changes and improvements were made to the third lunar mission taking into account the lessons learnt from the failed soft landing mission of Chandrayaan-II. Major changes included strengthening the legs of the lander, enhancing fuel reserves and expanding the landing site. Previously, the Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-2 had lost control and communication during descent, which caused it to crash on the moon’s surface. Chandrayaan 3 focused on a failure-based design approach to foresee and prevent potential mishaps.

  • The landing area was expanded giving flexibility to soft-land safely within a larger designated region on the surface of the moon.
  • Vikram was equipped with more fuel enabling it to travel more towards the landing site.
  • Chandrayaan 2 had only two solar panels while Chandrayaan-3 has four.
  • The lander’s speed was continuously monitored by an instrument called Laser Doppler Velocimeter onboard the mission that sent laser beams to the lunar surface to calculate the Lander’s speed.

Significance of Lunar South Pole

Previous lunar missions have focused on the equatorial region of the moon owing to its favourable terrain. The south pole region is more challenging compared to the equatorial region. The lack of enough sunlight and extreme cold conditions (up to -230 degrees C) lead to difficulties in instrument operation and sustainability. The polar regions may contain water according to scientists. Also, experts think that the craters in these regions contain fossil records of the early planetary system.

Students can check essential current affairs to amp up their IAS preparation.

Related Links
Chandrayaan I Space Centres & Space Agencies in India
Aditya L1 Mission Chang’e 5 Mission
IN-SPACe Gaganyaan Mission


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