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India braces for historic lunar probe landing

India’s mission to the Moon could be about to make history, with a probe expected to touch down near the lunar south pole in less than seven hours.

The Lander module of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft will attempt the landing at 6.04 pm Indian Standard Time on Wednesday.

If successful, the probe will be the first to soft-land in the Moon’s southern polar region, placing India in a short list of countries who have mastered the technology of soft landings on the lunar surface, after the Soviet Union, the US and China.

The landing will be attempted just days after Russia’s probe, Luna-25, crashed into the Earth’s satellite after it failed to shut down its engines in time, and veered from its intended orbit.

In 2019, India attempted a similar mission, but the Chandrayaan-2, too, crashed just minutes before its scheduled landing. Learning from past failures, scientists at the India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have redesigned the technology of the spacecraft to ensure a successful descent.

  • While so far the third mission was going smoothly, according to the Indian space agency, the last leg of the journey will be crucial. Scientists behind the mission refer to this phase as “20 or 17 minutes of terror” largely because, in these last moments, the entire process will become autonomous. At this time, the Vikram lander has to fire its engines at the right times and altitudes, use the right amount of fuel, and scan the lunar surface for any hills or craters before finally touching down.

If any factor regarding the lander module appears unfavourable, the landing will be postponed to August 27, Nilesh M Desai, director of Space Applications Centre-ISRO, told ANI news agency on Monday.

  • According to him, the decision to make landing or not will be made two hours before the scheduled time, “based on the health of the lander module and the conditions on the Moon”.

A day before the landing, ISRO Chairman and Secretary Department of Space S Somanath updated Union Minister for Science and Technology Jitendra Singh on the health status of Chandrayaan-3, and said all systems are working perfectly, with no contingencies anticipated for Wednesday.

As the countdown to the mission began, Indians united to wish for its success.

Prayers were offered in temples, mosques and churches across the county and outside, including in the UK and the US.

In Om Sri Sai Balaji Temple and Cultural Center in Monroe, New Jersey, members of the Indian-American diaspora said it was a proud moment for the Indian community.

Across India’s states, including in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal, schools and community centers have been ordered to hold special screenings of the Chandrayaan-3 landing, which will be telecasted live.

Sand artist from Odisha, Sudarsan Pattnaik, created an artwork depicting Chandrayaan-3 making a successful landing on Moon’s south pole with an Indian flag placed there.

Source: RT