India Tries Again to Nail Moon Landing

After failed 2019 mission, country launches Chandrayaan-3 with a rover and lander
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 14, 2023 8:15 AM CDT
4 Years After Moon Landing Fail, India Tries Again
Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-3, the word for "moon craft" in Sanskrit, blasts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

An Indian spacecraft blazed its way to the far side of the moon Friday in a follow-up mission to its failed effort nearly four years ago to land a rover softly on the lunar surface, the country's space agency said. Chandrayaan-3, the word for "moon craft" in Sanskrit, took off from a launch pad in Sriharikota in southern India with an orbiter, a lander, and a rover, in a demonstration of India's emerging space technology, per the AP. The spacecraft is set to embark on a journey lasting slightly over a month before landing on the moon's surface later in August. Applause and cheers swept through mission control at Satish Dhawan Space Center, where the Indian Space Research Organization's engineers and scientists celebrated as they monitored the launch of the spacecraft.

Thousands of Indians cheered outside the mission control center and waved the national flag as they watched the spacecraft rise into the sky. "Congratulations, India. Chandrayaan-3 has started its journey towards the moon," ISRO Director Sreedhara Panicker Somanath said shortly after the launch. A successful soft landing would make India the fourth country—after the United States, the Soviet Union, and China—to achieve the feat. The six-wheeled lander and rover module of Chandrayaan-3 is configured with payloads that would provide data to the scientific community on the properties of lunar soil and rocks, including chemical and elemental compositions, said Dr. Jitendra Singh, minister for science and technology.

India's previous attempt to land a robotic spacecraft near the moon's little-explored south pole ended in failure in 2019. The spacecraft entered the lunar orbit but lost touch with its lander, which crashed while making its final descent to deploy a rover to search for signs of water. According to a failure analysis report submitted to the ISRO, the crash was caused by a software glitch. That $140 million mission was intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits and were confirmed by India's Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008. Somanath said the main objective of the mission this time was a safe and soft landing on the moon. He said the Indian space agency has perfected the art of reaching up to the moon, "but it is the landing that the agency is working on."

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As part of its own space program, active since the '60s, India has launched satellites for itself and other nations and successfully put one in orbit around Mars in 2014. India is also looking forward to its first mission to the International Space Station in 2024, in collaboration with the US as part of agreements between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Biden at the White House last month. Numerous nations and private firms are in a race to successfully land a spacecraft on the lunar surface. In April, a Japanese company's spacecraft apparently crashed while attempting to land on the moon. An Israeli nonprofit tried to achieve a similar feat in 2019, but its spacecraft was destroyed on impact. "Chandrayaan-3 scripts a new chapter in India's space odyssey," Modi said in a tweet after the launch. "It soars high, elevating the dreams and ambitions of every Indian."

(More India stories.)

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