It all began in 2008 when a small Indian probe hurtling down from above crashed into the Moon. On its 25-minute flight, it made the biggest discovery of them all – signatures of water. Nearly 15 years after that intentional crash, India landed on the Moon with Chandrayaan-3 on Wednesday.
The milestone comes nearly four years after its predecessor, Chandrayaan-2, crashed during the landing attempt. An entire nation shared the pain with the team at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).
On Wednesday, India got redemption as Isro guided Vikram through a tricky dance of gravity and speed to the surface of the Moon.
As the lander, Vikram, began its descent around 5:45 pm from nearly 25 kilometers above its destination, 1.4 billion Indians hoped and prayed for it to stick to the landing. And Vikram did just that.
At about *** Vikram relayed to the Mission Control in Bengaluru that it had indeed conquered the Moon and the celebration began.
Chandrayaan-3 had been looping around the Moon for over 15 days after entering into lunar orbit on August 5, completing a nearly 4 lakh-kilometer-long trek between Earth and its destination. Launched from India’s Sriharikota on July 14, the spacecraft took a long route on its journey as it used Earth’s gravity to gain additional speed and hurtle through the vacuum of space.
What makes Chandrayaan-3 even more worthy is that it landed in a region that has so far remained untouched and unexplored. The lander touched down on the southern polar region of the Moon, which is known for notoriously being hidden from Earth’s view with temperatures varying from over 50 degrees Celsius during the day, and minus 200 degrees Celsius during the lunar night.
India became the first country in the world to land a spacecraft in this region and fourth in the world overall after the US, Russia, and China.
Peppered with thousands of craters of uneven height and depth, and hundreds of obstacles rising out of the ground, the terrain is one of the most challenging to land on when it comes to interplanetary locations. Russia lost its Luna-25 just days ahead of Chandrayaan-3’s landing attempt. It was targeting the same region around 120-150 kilometers away from where Vikram has set camp.
Now that the spacecraft has landed, all eyes are on the science that it will do for the next 14 days during which this region is illuminated by sunlight. Isro has said that once the region goes dark again, both Vikram and Pragyan rover could cease to exist. The mission has a lifetime of one lunar day or 14 Earth days.