BENGALURU, Aug 23 (Reuters) – The Indian Space Research Agency (ISRO) is closing in on an attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon’s south pole.
Here are key facts about the Chandrayaan-3 mission.
WHAT IS INDIA’S CHANDRAYAAN-3 MISSION?
The Chandrayaan-3 is aimed at the lunar south pole, a region with water ice, or frozen water, that could be a source of oxygen, fuel and water for future moon missions or a more permanent moon colony.
If it lands successfully, the Chandrayaan-3 is expected to remain functional for two weeks, running a series of experiments including a spectrometer analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface.
The Chandrayaan-3 lander stands about 2 meters tall and has a mass of just over 1,700 kg (3,747.86 lb), roughly on par with an SUV. It is designed to deploy a smaller, 26-kg lunar rover.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson told Reuters that the U.S. space agency was “looking forward” to what would be learned from the Indian mission.
WHEN DID IT LAUNCH AND WHAT IS THE EXPECTED LANDING DATE?
The Chandrayaan-3 mission was launched on July 14 from India’s main space port in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
Since then, it has looped through progressively wider-ranging orbits of Earth, transferred to a lunar orbit and emerged as a focus of national pride and global interest after Russia’s failed attempt to beat it to a landing on the moon’s south pole.
It will attempt to land there at about 1804 IST (1234 GMT) on Wednesday.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ISRO’S EARLIER MOON LANDING ATTEMPT?
India’s previous attempt to land on the lunar south pole failed in 2019.
Chandrayaan-2 successfully deployed an orbiter but its lander and rover were destroyed in a crash near where Chandrayaan-3 will attempt a touchdown.
Rough terrain is one of the complications for a south pole landing. ISRO scientists say they have made adjustments that make it more likely the current mission will land successfully. That includes a system to broaden the potential landing zone. The lander has also been equipped with more fuel and sturdier legs for impact.
Russia’s first moon mission in 47 years failed over the weekend when its Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the moon.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN IF THE MISSION IS SUCCESSFUL?
There is feverish anticipation and excitement in India over the planned landing with prayers held in temples, mosques and churches, schools marshalling students to watch a live telecast of the event, and space enthusiasts organising parties to celebrate.
A successful mission would make India only the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, after the former USSR, the United States and China, and mark its emergence as a space power, just ahead of national elections next year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is also looking to spur investment in private space launches and related satellite-based businesses.
India wants its private space companies to increase their share of the global launch market by fivefold within the next decade.
Modi said when the moon mission launched that ISRO was writing “a new chapter in India’s space odyssey” and elevating “the dreams and ambitions of every Indian.”
ISRO will telecast the landing starting from 1720 IST (1150 GMT) on Wednesday.
Editing by Kevin Krolicki, Bernadette Baum and YP Rajesh; Editing by Angus MacSwan
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