The deboosting process of the lander for ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 mission has begun, marking a successful start for the mission. Launched on July 14 from Sriharikota’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre Second Launch Pad, this is India’s second endeavor to land on the Moon. On July 17, the lander detached from the propulsion module and will now initiate its descent towards the lunar south pole.
Chandrayaan-3 consists of three parts – a lunar lander named Vikram, a rover named Pragyan and a propulsion module. The names were retained from the previous Chandrayaan-2 mission, which plunged to the surface of the moon upon landing. On August 1, the spacecraft reached its translunar orbit and began orbiting the moon just 4 days later. Since then, it has performed a series of maneuvers that have gradually reduced its separation from the Moon.
According to ISRO, Chandryaaan-3 completed its fifth lunar orbit on August 17 when it separated from the propulsion module and began its descent towards the lunar surface. Announcing this move, ISRO posted on X (formerly Twitter): “Thanks for the ride, mate!” said the Lander Module (LM). The LM has been successfully separated from the Propulsion Module (PM)”.
The spacecraft will now complete its final maneuver today, August 18, and begin its de-powering process. At this stage of the mission, Chandrayaan-3 slows down and settles into a lower orbit, where its Perilune is 30 kilometers and Apolune is about 100 kilometers. ISRO further posted on X: “The LM is scheduled to descend into a slightly lower orbit after the boost scheduled for tomorrow at approximately 4:00 PM, IST.”
Chandrayaan-3: What next?
According to ISRO, Chandrayaan-3 is now undergoing two orbit reduction operations, where it will initially move into a 100 x 100 km orbit before settling into a 100 x 30 orbit. The spacecraft will then make its final landing on the Moon, which is expected to take place on August 23.
On the other hand, the propulsion module will continue in its current orbit for months or even years. The habitable planet SHAPE payload spectropolarimeter on the module will perform several experiments, such as a spectroscopic study of Earth’s atmosphere, measure polarization variations in Earth’s clouds, and collect exoplanet signatures that would be suitable for our habitability.
If Chandrayaan-3 succeeds in landing on the lunar surface, India will become the fourth nation to land on the lunar soil after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.