Expectations of India's moon landing rise after Russian Crash

Chandrayaan-3 heads for lunar south pole for historic landing that will mark India’s emergence as a space superpower


India’s space agency on Monday released images taken by its probe on the far side of the moon as it headed for a landing attempt at the moon’s south pole, just days after the Russian lander failed.

The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft was racing Russia to be the first to land on the moon’s south pole, an area whose shadowed craters are likely to contain water ice that could support future lunar settlement. As news of the failure of Russia’s Luna-25 mission emerged on Sunday, ISRO said Chandrayaan-3 was on track to land on August 23. All systems on the spacecraft are working “perfectly” and no unforeseen events are expected on landing day, the space agency said Monday.

This mission Chandrayaan, which in Hindi and Sanskrit means “lunar vehicle” is India’s second attempt to touch down on the south pole of the moon. The orbiter was successfully launched by ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019, but the lander collapsed. Touchdown at the South Pole is challenging due to the rough terrain, but the first touchdown would be significant. Future expeditions might be able to use the water ice in the area to get fuel, oxygen, and drinking water.

Images released on Monday showed craters on the moon’s surface captured by ISRO’s Lander Hazard Detection and Avoidance Camera, which is designed to help find a safe place for spacecraft to land. India’s lunar mission was launched on July 14 and the Chandrayaan-3 module separated from the propulsion module last week.

For India, a successful moon landing would mark its emergence as a space power as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government seeks to spur investment in private space launches and related satellite ventures. “Chandrayaan-3’s success will improve the Indian space agency’s standing internationally. It would demonstrate how India is emerging as a major force in space exploration, according to former ISRO scientist Manish Purohit.

Additionally, it would improve India’s standing as a provider of affordable space engineering. On a budget of roughly 6.15 billion rupees ($74 million), Chandrayaan-3 was launched with less money than the 2013 Hollywood space drama “Gravity.” Following the former USSR, the United States, and China, a successful mission would make India just the fourth nation to successfully land on the moon. “India will get new technology with a successful landing, which is a big thing,” former space agency chief K. Sivan said after the launch of Chandrayaan-3.

ISRO scientists said they learned from the failure of the earlier lunar mission and made changes to Chandrayaan-3 that would increase the likelihood of a successful landing, including the ability to land safely anywhere in the extended landing zone under adverse conditions. Additionally, it had more solar panels, more gasoline, and stronger legs. Executives in India’s emerging space sector also anticipate growth. India has more than doubled the number of space firms since 2020, when it allowed for private launch.

“The upcoming three days will be nothing less than ‘amazing’! Pawan Chandana, co-founder of Skyroot, which launched India’s first privately made rocket last year, posted on X, formerly Twitter, “Can’t wait for the landing!”

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