Chandrayaan 3: Why did ISRO soft land Vikram Lander again? Explained

By | Edited by Aniruddha Dhar
Sep 04, 2023 12:09 PM IST

Chandrayaan 3 latest updates: ISRO successfully lands Vikram Lander on the Moon again. Here's why the Indian space agency did soft-landing for the second time.

The Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO commanded the Chandrayaan-3 mission's Vikram Lander to reignite its engines, raising it by approximately 40 cm, announced the space agency on Monday. The lander achieved a safe landing at a distance of 30 to 40 cm from the 'Shiv Shakti Point', the previous landing spot.

A view of Chandrayaan-3's Vikram Lander during its soft landing from the live telecast of the lander on the Moon's surface at Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO)'s headquarters, in Bengaluru, India on August 23. (Isro)
A view of Chandrayaan-3's Vikram Lander during its soft landing from the live telecast of the lander on the Moon's surface at Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO)'s headquarters, in Bengaluru, India on August 23. (Isro)

ALSO READ - Chandrayaan 3's Vikram Lander soft lands on Moon for second time: ISRO

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However, the question arises: Why did the ISRO soft-land the lander on the Moon again?

Launched on July 14 as the fourth operational flight of the LVM3 rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Station in Andhra Pradesh's Sriharikota, India's lunar mission successfully touched down on the lunar surface on August 23, well within its intended landing site, later named as the Shiv Shakti Point by India.

By successfully conducting the hop experiment by ascending a few centimetres, Vikram Lander has successfully achieved all its objectives, said ISRO. The Indian space agency further explained that this "kick-start" manoeuvre aids in studying future sample returns and human missions.

As of now, the ISRO does not have any human mission or Moon sample return planned. Instead, the ISRO is focused on the Gaganyaan project, which aims to demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities by launching a crew of three members into a 400 km orbit for a three-day mission and safely bringing them back to Earth, with a landing in the Indian sea waters.

China's lunar exploration mission, Chang'e 6, scheduled for a 2024 launch, will perform China's second sample return mission. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has the Artemis programme, with the intention of reestablishing a human presence on the Moon for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Artemis III will be a crewed lunar exploration mission, but it is not expected to happen before 2025, as Artemis II is planned for November 2024.

Chandrayaan 3 mission's achievements so far

Throughout its operational phase, Vikram Lander and Pragyan rover executed numerous lunar experiments:

1. Rover Exploration: Prior to activating the Pragyan rover's sleep mode, ISRO reported that it covered a distance of over 100 meters. Notably, the rover's communication range is limited to 500 meters from the Vikram lander.

2. Historic Sulphur Discovery: The Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) instrument onboard the rover unequivocally confirmed the presence of Sulphur (S) in the lunar surface near the south pole, representing a groundbreaking in-situ measurement. Additionally, LIBS detected Al, Ca, Fe, Cr, Ti, Mn, Si, and O.

3. Pioneering Plasma Measurements: The Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere - Langmuir Probe (RAMBHA-LP) payload onboard Chandrayaan-3 Lander conducted groundbreaking measurements of the near-surface lunar plasma environment over the south polar region. Preliminary assessments suggest relatively sparse plasma near the lunar surface. These quantitative measurements hold promise for mitigating interference in radio wave communication and enhancing future lunar mission designs.

4. Seismic Activity Recording: The Instrument for the Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) payload on Chandrayaan 3 Lander, the first Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technology-based instrument on the moon, recorded the movements of the rover and other payloads. Additionally, it captured an event on August 26, deemed to be of natural origin, which is currently under investigation.

5. Thermal Behaviour Exploration: The ChaSTE (Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiment) instrument measured the temperature profile of the lunar topsoil around the pole to better understand the thermal characteristics of the moon's surface. Equipped with a controlled penetration mechanism capable of reaching a depth of 10 cm beneath the surface and featuring 10 individual temperature sensors, the probe generated a temperature variation graph for the lunar surface/near-surface at various depths during its penetration. This marked the first such profile for the lunar south pole, with ongoing detailed observations.

6. Alternate Sulphur Confirmation: Another instrument onboard the rover corroborated the presence of Sulphur (S) in the region using a distinct technique. The Alpha Particle X-ray Spectroscope (APXS) detected S alongside other minor elements. This finding has prompted scientists to explore new theories regarding the source of Sulphur (S) in the area, including intrinsic, volcanic, meteoritic, and other possibilities.

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