The environment was filled with sadness and frustration; everyone had tears rolling down from their eyes. The team of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) scientists had failed to make a successful soft landing on the moon’s surface in 2019. The then ISRO chief K Sivaan was seen breaking to tears in a video after the mission failed.
India launched its second lunar mission Chandrayaan 2, which consisted of an orbiter named Vikram lander and a rover named Pragyan. The goal of the mission was to study the soil and surface composition of the moon and to discover water in the form of ice (The temperature at the moon drops to -173 degrees Celsius, so water is usually can be found in the form of ice) in the south pole region of the moon.
The spacecraft carrying the rover and the orbiter was launched from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in the state of Andhra Pradesh of India on 22nd July 2019. ISRO was able to put the orbiter in orbit of the moon, but when attempting to make a soft landing on the moon’s surface, the Vikram lander crashed on the surface of the moon.
According to a failure analysis report by ISRO, it was found that the lander deviated from its intended trajectory and crashed onto the lunar surface while attempting to make a soft land on 6th September 2019. The reason for its deviation was a software glitch mentioned in the report.
The mission failed but it was not able to affect the determination and hopes of ISRO’s scientists. Though they were sad, they were determined to reach the moon.
After the Chandrayaan-2, many countries tried to make a soft landing on the moon including Japan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel. Unfortunately, all these countries failed. The reason for their failure was the unpredictable and harsh conditions the space offers.
For ISRO, it was a lot of learning as it can analyze the data from these failed missions and learn by analyzing it. It took the Indian Space Organisation just four years to develop another lander and rover for the Chandrayaan-3.
ISRO launched its third lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3 on 14th July, 2023, at 14:35 Hrs. IST from the Second Launch Pad, SDSC-SHAR, Sriharikota. It consisted of the same Vikram lander and Pragyan rover as Chandryaan-2 did. The main objective of the Chandrayaan-3 mission is to land safely on the moon’s south pole surface, learn about the moon’s topography, soil composition, and craters and most importantly to discover water on the moon.
It was expected that the mission would take around five weeks to land on the moon’s surface on 23rd August 2023. The whole months of July and August were tense for ISRO scientists and the workforce.
It had been just around three weeks from Chandrayaan-3 launch and a new player had arrived to compete with the Indian mission. It was Russia’s Luna-25. Russia launched its moon mission on 10th August 2023 at 23:10 UTC from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far eastern Amur Region.
Russia had never launched a mission to the moon in the last fifty years. Some people started to think they had launched it to try to defeat India to become the first country to land on the moon’s south pole. Some even criticised the Russian Federation for its decision to launch a space mission at a time when it was engaged in a war with Ukraine which had been going on for a year and a half now.
The environment at ISRO’s headquarters in the Indian city of Bengaluru was filled with stress and nervousness. The sudden announcement of Russia’s Luna-25 launch did not help but increased it. Now, there was a competition between two great nations, two space superpowers, and more importantly two friends.
The friendship between India and Russia is such that even if one of the countries fails, it will be happy that its friend was able to complete the mission and it will bring prosperity to humanity.
Russia’s Luna-25 met an unexpected misfortune. Russian space agency Roscosmos announced that the lander crashed on the moon’s surface on 19th August due to a technical glitch.
If the Russian lander would not have been crashed, it would have become the first country to reach the moon’s surface. Russia has powerful rockets which take much less time to reach the lunar orbit than it does for India.
The people of both countries were sad because of Russia’s failure. Indians gave their condolences to the Russian citizens and scientists on social media. On the other part of the world, the West was enjoying Russia’s defeat and could not get tired of trolling it and making memes. Westerners do not seem to understand that Russia’s failure was a failure of humanity. The Russian rover had planned to explore the moon’s surface for a year, collecting various kinds of data that would be helpful in future for making bases on the moon.
The ISRO was now more careful as the world had hoped for its success. Only four days had left until the day when the Indian space agency would make a landing attempt on the moon’s surface. The scientists were dedicated, they worked late at night to make sure every calculation was correctly done and there was not a single chance of a mistake.
The day came. It was 23rd August 2023, the day on which the lander would attempt to make a soft land on the southern region of the lunar surface. The lander has found a spot to make soft land. It fired its four engines at the altitude of thirty kilometres putting brakes to the enormous speed it had gained while orbitting the moon. The lander tried to stabilise itself when it reached the altitude of 10 kilometres and in the next few minutes, it landed SUCCESSFULLY on the moon’s surface. India became the first country to reach the darker side of the moon.
Cheers filled the ISRO headquarters. PM Modi was taking live updates from his assistants and his smile was like none other when his country made history. The scientists who were once sad and crying just four years back now could not control their happiness. The ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 was the perfect ending to the story which ended with sadness in 2019 with the failure of Chandrayaan-2. The future which lies ahead is bright both for India and humanity.
Written by Mayank Vikash
Published on Saturday, 26th August 2023 at 14:40 IST
Last updated Saturday, August 26, 2023, at 14:43 IST