The Indian space agency on Monday released images of the far side of the moon taken by its spacecraft as it attempted to land on the moon’s south pole, just days after a Russian lander failed. The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft has been in a race with Russia to be the first to land on the moon’s south pole, a region whose shadowed craters are thought to contain water ice that could support future missions on the moon. settle down.

As news of Russia’s Luna-25 mission failure broke on Sunday, ISRO said Chandrayaan-3 will land on August 23.

The mission — Chandrayaan means “lunar rover” in Hindi and Sanskrit — is India’s second attempt to land on the lunar south pole. In 2019, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission successfully deployed an orbiter, but its lander crashed.

Rugged terrain makes Antarctic landings difficult, but the first touchdown will be historic. Water ice in the region could provide fuel, oxygen and drinking water for future missions.

Images released Monday show craters on the lunar surface captured by the ISRO spacecraft’s lander hazard detection and avoidance camera, which is designed to help the spacecraft find a safe landing location.

India’s lunar mission launched on July 14, and Chandrayaan-3’s lander module separated from its propulsion module last week.

For India, a successful moon landing would signal its rise as a space power, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government looks to spur investment in private space launches and related satellite businesses.

“If Chandrayaan-3 is successful, it will boost the reputation of the Indian space agency globally. It will show that India is becoming a key player in space exploration,” said Manish Prohit, a former scientist at ISRO.

It will also boost India’s reputation for cost-competitive space engineering. The launch budget for Chandrayaan-3 is about Rs. 6.15 billion rupees ($74 million), less than the production cost of the 2013 Hollywood space thriller Gravity.

If the mission is successful, India will become the fourth country to successfully land on the moon after the former Soviet Union, the United States and China.

“It is a big deal that India will get new technology for a successful landing,” K. Sivan, former head of the Indian Space Agency, said after Chandrayaan-3’s launch.

ISRO scientists say they have learned from the failure of earlier lunar missions and have made improvements to Chandrayaan-3 that will make a successful landing more likely, including enabling it to fly in adverse conditions. Land safely anywhere within the expanded landing zone. It also comes with more fuel, more solar panels and stronger legs.

Executives in India’s nascent space industry are also expecting a boost. The number of space startups in India has more than doubled since it opened up to private launches in 2020.

“The next 3 days will be ‘fantastic’! Looking forward to the landing!” said Pawan Chandana, co-founder of Skyroot, which launched India’s first privately built rocket last year. .

© Thomson Reuters 2023


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