India is preparing for its highly anticipated third lunar mission, Chandrayaan 3, scheduled to be launched on July 12. Unlike its predecessor, Chandrayaan 2, the upcoming mission will not include a satellite. Instead, it comprises a propulsion module (rocket), a lander, and a rover, with a total weight of 3,900 kg. The primary objective of the mission is to showcase India’s ability to successfully land a rover on the Moon while conducting important scientific studies.
The launch will take place at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, utilizing the Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM-3) rocket from the second launch pad. The anticipated moon landing is set for August 23, marking a significant milestone in India’s lunar exploration program.
The new lander for Chandrayaan 3 has been significantly enhanced compared to the previous mission. Following the unfortunate explosion of the Vikram lander during Chandrayaan 2’s landing attempt in 2019, improvements have been made to ensure a more powerful and reliable landing system. The cost of Chandrayaan 3 is estimated at Rs 615 crore, which is lower than the cost of Chandrayaan 2 (Rs 960 crore) and Chandrayaan 1 (Rs 386 crore).
The Chandrayaan 3 mission plan involves the propulsion module delivering the lander to a location approximately 100 km from the lunar surface. At this point, the propulsion module will detach, allowing the lander to orbit the moon. During this phase, critical parameters such as the lunar surface temperature, landing site conditions, and seismic activity will be carefully monitored. Subsequently, the lander will perform a soft landing, followed by the controlled release of the rover after thorough inspection of the landing area. The rover will solely communicate with the lander, receiving instructions from Earth via the lander.
The primary mission objectives for the rover include analyzing the composition of the lunar soil, specifically testing for elements and the presence of nuclear material. Instruments such as the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and laser-induced breakdown spectroscope will be employed to determine the elemental composition accurately.
On the other hand, the lander is equipped with instruments dedicated to measuring thermal conductivity and temperature using a thermophysical instrument. Additionally, a lunar seismic activity instrument will monitor seismic events near the landing site, while a Langmuir probe will estimate plasma concentration and variations. NASA’s Laser Retroreflector Array, a collaborative effort, will aid in laser ranging studies.
The Chandrayaan 1 mission, launched in 2008, achieved significant success and laid the foundation for India’s lunar exploration program. However, the subsequent Chandrayaan 2 mission encountered challenges, with the lander crash-landing on the lunar surface. The learnings from Chandrayaan 2 have been instrumental in the development and improvements incorporated into Chandrayaan 3, reinforcing India’s commitment to advancing its lunar exploration capabilities.
As India gears up for the Chandrayaan 3 mission, the nation eagerly awaits another remarkable achievement in its space exploration journey, furthering scientific knowledge and expanding our understanding of the Moon.
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