India's lunar spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 has entered the last phase of its journey as the lander, along with rover payloads, has separated from the propulsion module, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says. The lander will now make a soft landing on the Moon and deploy the Rover, which will carry out an "in-situ chemical analysis" of the lunar surface during its mobility.
"‘Thanks for the ride, mate! 👋’ said the Lander Module (LM). LM is successfully separated from the Propulsion Module (PM). LM is set to descend to a slightly lower orbit upon a deboosting planned for tomorrow around 1600 Hrs., IST," says ISRO, adding that with this, India now has around three satellites around the Moon.
ISRO explains that the Propulsion Module continues its journey in the current orbit for months or years. "The SHAPE payload onboard: it would perform a spectroscopic study of the Earth’s atmosphere and measure the variations in polarisation from the clouds on Earth; to accumulate signatures of exoplanets that would qualify for our habitability!"
Minister of Science and Technology Jitendra Singh also says that while the whole world watches, team ISRO makes India proud by gloriously coming through the last critical test! “Chandrayaan-3 successfully conducts separation of Lander Module from Propulsion Module. Heading now for the next destination. Countdown begins for landing on the MOON,” he posts on the microblogging platform X.
Chandrayaan-3 had completed its orbits around the Earth on August 1, 2023, and had headed towards the Moon. The spacecraft's Lunar-Orbit Insertion (LOI) was planned for August 5, 2023.
"The spacecraft’s health is normal. Today’s perigee burn has successfully raised Chandrayaan-3 orbit to 288 km x 369328 km. In this orbit, the spacecraft enters the Moon’s sphere of influence. A crucial maneuver at perilune would achieve the Lunar Orbit Injection (LOI)."
On August 4, 2023, the spacecraft had covered about two-thirds of the distance to the Moon, while on August 5, Chandrayaan-3 was successfully inserted into the lunar orbit, a crucial milestone with the successful completion of the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI).
This was the third time in succession that ISRO successfully inserted its spacecraft into the lunar orbit, apart from doing so into the Martian orbit.
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 (IDSN) antenna at Byalalu, near Bengaluru, with the support from ESA and JPL Deep space antenna.
India's most anticipated space mission, Chandrayaan-3, took off successfully from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on August 14, 2023, marking the country's third mission to the Moon.
The ISRO this time aims to go beyond its predecessor, Chandrayaan-2, and help the world study the lunar surface further and enhance humanity's knowledge. If Chandrayaan-3 lands smoothly on the Moon, India will be the fourth country after the US, Russia, and China to achieve that feat.
Chandrayaan-3 will travel over 300,000 km to reach the Moon after several orbit-raising maneuvers. Chandrayaan-3 consists of an indigenous Lander module, propulsion module, and a Rover, and the aim is to develop and show new technologies required for inter-planetary missions.