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India’s historic Chandrayaan-3 mission sends back first images of Moon ahead of landing

Successful soft landing will make India the first country to do so close to the lunar South pole

Vishwam Sankaran
Monday 07 August 2023 09:35 BST
Chandrayaan-3 Triumphs: Successful Lunar Orbit Entry And Breathtaking Pictures Of The Moon

India’s historic Chandrayaan-3 mission to the lunar South pole has sent back first images of the Moon ahead of its anticipated landing later this month.

On Saturday, the spacecraft carrying the mission’s rover and lander successfully entered lunar orbit, following which the Indian space agency Isro tweeted the first images of the Moon taken from orbit.

The images reveal craters on the Moon which appear larger as the spacecraft gets closer to the lunar surface.

After about 10 days of orbiting Earth, the spacecraft has begun circling the Moon, and the rover and lander are expected to reach the lunar surface on 23 August.

“Today, the Chandrayaan-3 mission achieved a crucial milestone with the successful completion of the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI),” Isro tweeted, adding that “the health of Chandrayaan-3 is normal.”

Saturday’s achievement marks the third time in succession that ISRO has successfully inserted a spacecraft into lunar orbit.

A series of manoeuvres have been planned for the Chandrayaan-3 mission spacecraft to next gradually reduce its orbit and touch down on the Moon.

During one such manoeuvre, the spacecraft’s propulsion module would separate from the lander while in orbit, and with a series of braking maneuvers a soft landing of the lander is anticipated in the lunar South pole region on 23 August.

The mission was launched from India’s main spaceport, Sriharikota, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh on 14 July aboard Isro’s LVM3 rocket.

The spacecraft, whose name translates to “moon craft” in Sanskrit, has been on a journey expected to last slightly over a month before landing.

“Throughout the mission, the health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Network (ISTRAC), the Indian Deep Space Network (IDS) antenna at Byalalu, near Bengaluru, with the support from ESA and JPL Deep space antenna,” Isro noted.

A successful soft landing will make India the first country to do so close to the lunar South pole and only the fourth to delicately land a probe on the Moon after the US, former Soviet Union, and China.

Chandrayaan-3 is also a follow-up mission four years after Isro’s first unsuccessful attempt to land a rover on the lunar surface in 2019.

The next steps for Chandrayaan-3 are to further reduce the spacecraft’s orbit, which is scheduled for 9 August.

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