Chandrayaan-3 marks a watershed in Indian space missions | Sunday Observer

Chandrayaan-3 marks a watershed in Indian space missions

27 August, 2023

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was delighted when he learned of the unique feat of the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 making a soft landing at the hitherto unknown South Pole of the Moon.

Prime Minister Modi greeted the scientists who made it possible to make India proud and enabled the South Asian giant to join the elite club of space-exploring countries such as the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China from the BRICS platform, where he was meeting with the leaders of other emerging economies.

The Prime Minister said, “We have reached where no one has reached in the past. This success is not India’s alone. This success belongs to all of humanity; it will help Moon missions from other countries in the future.”

Euphoric celebrations

According to Indian media, precisely at 6.03 p.m., the lander touched the lunar surface, and there were euphoric celebrations at the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Network (ISTRAC), Bengaluru. By achieving this feat, India also became the first nation to touch down on the polar region of the Moon.

The successful landing on Wednesday has erased the painful memories of the failure of Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander in 2019. During the descent, the Vikram lander gave up at an altitude of 2.1 km before touchdown and crashed on the lunar surface. It subsequently lost communication with ground stations.

On the successful mission of Chandrayaan 3, President Wickremesinghe also joined the leaders who extended their warmest wishes to the Prime Minister and the people of India. In a letter addressed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ranil Wickremesinghe extended his heartiest congratulations to the Prime Minister, ISRO, and the people of India on the remarkable achievement of Chandrayaan-3’s successful soft landing.

President Wickremesinghe underscored the global significance of Prime Minister Modi’s magnanimous gesture of dedicating this success to all of humanity, which he noted would inspire generations to pursue the advancement of scientific and technological progress. There was euphoria in Tamil Nadu since many scientists who contributed to the success story of the Chandrayaan-3 hail from Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu’s leading scientists—former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Chandrayaan-2 Mission Director Mayilsamy Annadurai, and Chandrayaan-3 Project Director P. Veeramuthuvel have immensely contributed to ISRO missions. The State’s soil itself was useful in carrying out the experiments that were needed for the mission. Since 2012, Namakkal, which is about 400 km from the state capital Chennai, has been supplying soil to ISRO for testing for the Chandrayaan Mission as the earth in that district is similar to that of the lunar surface.

While the news agency IANS reported that as many as 54 women scientists and engineers were involved in the “Chandrayaan 3” project, a BBC report quoted mission director T.K. Anuradha as saying that anywhere between 20 percent and 25 percent of ISRO’s 16,000 employees are women. Considering the way women have come up in ISRO since the 1980s, it is apparent that gender equality has been one of its defining values.

Latest reports

Latest reports indicate that the Pragayn rover has rolled out of Chandrayan 3 within 24 hours of the Moon landing on a two-week-long moon exploration mission.

Time is of the essence here, as Chandrayaan-3 is powered by solar panels and is designed to last a single lunar day, equivalent to 14 Earth days. Within this time frame, it is slated to carry out a series of experiments, including a spectrometer analysis of the lunar surface’s mineral composition, before plunging into darkness at the conclusion of the lunar day.

The success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission marks a watershed moment, as it becomes the first spacecraft to land on the Moon’s South pole—a region containing water ice and valuable minerals. The implications of this pioneering feat are significant, and the data and insights drawn from these tests will surely capture global attention as they will aid in future lunar missions.

It’s noteworthy that Chandrayaan-1, a lunar orbiter mission launched in 2008 as India’s first endeavour to send a craft beyond Earth, was also the first to detect water on the lunar surface, a discovery that drastically influenced the plans of the U.S. and Chinese space programs for human lunar exploration.

The lunar South Pole is also set to be the landing site for the United States’ Artemis 3 mission. Scientists had long speculated that shaded craters in this region could contain substantial deposits of water ice, which could be harnessed for various purposes. Chandrayaan-1’s findings provided substantial support for these theories.

Chandrayaan-3 is essentially the same as Chandrayaan-2, with the identified software issue rectified.


Chandrayaan-3’s success holds potential significance for India’s aspirations of establishing a sustained human presence on the Moon. Under the Artemis Accords with the US, ISRO can lay claim to the landing area for mining rights. A successful Chandrayaan-3 mission will surely catalyse innovative scientific research, facilitating groundbreaking experiments that contribute to lunar understanding, including its composition, geology, and resource potential. It will also provide a boost to the planned ones, like the Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX), a collaboration between ISRO and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to explore the South Pole region of the moon.

At the heart of India’s space journey lies a pivotal lesson in self-reliance. ISRO serves as a living testament to the remarkable potential of Indian scientists to conquer challenges. Despite bureaucratic entanglements, political intricacies, and limited resources, ISRO has shattered stereotypes, emerging as a worthy rival to the elite space club—a feat so impactful that the New York Times offered a rare apology for its controversial caricature in 2014. Since then, ISRO’s prominence has only soared, and the narrative unfolds further with each chapter.

The soft landing of Chandrayaa-3 on the South Pole of the Moon’s surface created history. It is indeed a dream come true for every Indian. India has made giant strides economically and socially, and the latest feat is unparalled in technological advancement. (This article contains some extracts from an article written for Space News by Anusuya Datta, a writer with a special interest in Earth observation and sustainability issues based in Canada).

The writer is a senior journalist in India.

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