India’s Lunar Mission Captures Images of Far Side of the Moon Ahead of Historic Landing

India’s Lunar Mission Captures Images of Far Side of the Moon Ahead of Historic Landing

India’s space agency is gearing up for a lunar touchdown, hoping to stick the landing this time after a failed first attempt nearly four years ago.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission got its first glimpse of the lunar far side as it inches its way closer to the Moon’s dusty surface. The spacecraft is scheduled to land on the Moon on Wednesday at 8:34 a.m. ET (6:04 p.m. local time). If it succeeds in its soft landing attempt, India will join a small group of countries that have managed to accomplish the same feat: the Soviet Union, the U.S. and China.

Ahead of its landing attempt, Chandrayaan-3 has been testing its onboard cameras by capturing up-close images of the Moon’s cratered surface.

The Moon’s far side

Image: ISRO

The images were taken on August 19 by Chandrayaan-3’s Lander Hazard Detection and Avoidance Camera, which is designed to help guide the spacecraft on its way down towards the surface of the Moon for a safe touchdown.

Chandrayaan-3 is targeting a landing site in the lunar south pole, which would make it the first probe to touch down in that region on the Moon. The Moon’s south polar region is of great interest in the renewed race to the lunar surface, as it may contain reservoirs of ice water that could be used to make fuel.

Spacecraft reunion

Image: ISRO

Chandrayaan-3 is India’s second attempt to land on the Moon. The first attempt didn’t go so well: Chandrayaan-2 crashed on the Moon in September 2019 due to an issue with its braking thrusters.

Chandrayaan-2 included a lander-rover duo, as well as an orbiter. The space agency lost contact with the Vikram lander when it was around 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) from the lunar surface, while the orbiter is still in operation around the Moon.

Ahead of the anticipated landing attempt, the Chandrayaan-3 began talking to its predecessor mission. India’s space agency established two-way communication between the Chandrayaan-3 lander module and the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter on Monday. This gives mission control an additional way of communicating with the lander.

The race to the Moon

Image: ISRO

India wasn’t the only one hoping to land on the Moon’s south pole. Russia had sent its own lunar lander mission, which was scheduled for touchdown on Monday. Unfortunately, Russia’s Luna-25 failed in its attempt to land on the lunar surface and the spacecraft crashed on Saturday.

For now, all eyes are on India to stick the landing.

Landing on the Moon

Image: ISRO

The Chandrayaan-3 mission is made up of a propulsion module, a lander and a rover. Its main goal is to demonstrate the ability to land on the Moon and roam the lunar surface for exploration to help develop new technologies for interplanetary missions.

The propulsion module carried the lander and the rover to lunar orbit and the lander-rover pair will attempt to land on the Moon, carrying six scientific instruments to gather data from the surface. The rover is equipped with a laser-induced breakdown spectroscope and an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to study the chemical composition of the surface of the Moon, according to ISRO. 

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