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India makes first soft moon landing with Chandrayaan-3

India’s Chandrayaan-3 has fulfilled the first of three mission objectives by making a successful soft-landing on the Moon.


The spacecraft touched down today (August 23, 2023) after separating from its propulsion module on August 17.

“India is now on the moon,” said the country’s prime minister Narendra Modi from a BRICS summit in South Africa. “India has reached the south pole of the moon - no other country has achieved that. We are witnessing history.”

Chandrayaan-3’s six-wheeled, 26kg rover will disembark and carry out experiments, which fulfil the second and third mission objectives.

To this end, the rover has been outfitted with APXS (Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer) and LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope). ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) said that these will derive ‘the elemental composition in the vicinity of landing site.’

The lander’s instruments include ChaSTE (Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment) to measure the thermal conductivity and temperature; ILSA (Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity) for measuring the seismicity around the landing site; and LP (Langmuir Probe) to estimate the plasma density and its variations. ISRO added that the payload includes a passive Laser Retroreflector Array from NASA for lunar laser ranging studies.

Chandrayaan-3’s propulsion module, which will remain in its current orbit ‘for months/years’ is carrying SHAPE (Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth) ‘for the study of spectro-polarimetric signatures of Earth in the near-infrared wavelength range’.

The permanently shadowed lunar south pole is believed to contain significant quantities of ice. According to NASA, the ice inside these regions could be mixed in with the lunar soil, buried below the Moon’s surface, or it could be a sheet of ice. Future astronauts could consume it as drinkable water or breathable oxygen, or to make fuel for missions further into space.

NASA plans to send VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) to the lunar south pole in 2024 to pinpoint the location and concentration of water ice that could eventually be harvested to sustain human exploration.