By Dr. Soma Marla
Successful launch of Chandrayan 3, the latest mission of Indian Space Research Organisation to moon, is a remarkable scientific endeavour. It took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikotain Andhra Pradesh state on the afternoon of July 14,2023. With the successful launch, India is bidding to become the fourth country to execute a controlled landing on the moon and first to touch down the unexplored, rugged southern pole surface of Moon. The journey will take over 40 days (one moon day is equal to four earthen days) and Chandrayan 3 is expected to land on moon in August.
However, a day before the launch of Chandrayan 3, a team of leading ISRO scientists took the rocket prototype to Tirupati temple and put it at the feet of Lord Venkateswara, seeking blessings. This act of pseudoscience has tarnished the success story of moon mission and outraged many Indians.
Chandrayaan-3 mission holds immense possibilities for India’s future space exploration missions. By showcasing its technological capabilities, ISRO, India, is ambitious to establish itself as a prominent player in the global space community.
Chandrayaan-3 comprises of three essential components: the lander module Vikram, the propulsion module and a robot rover. The lander enables soft landing on the Moon, deploying the rover for collecting scientific information. The robot lander will walk on the southern (pole)surface of moon for 14 days and collect vital scientific data. The rover has powerful instruments such as the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), which will analyze lunar soil and rocks for elemental composition, and the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) to examine the chemical makeup of the lunar surface.
The lander is also equipped with Surface Thermo physical Experiment (ChaSTE), which will provide vital information on the moon’s thermal conductivity and temperature. Also equipped are Instruments for Lunar Seismic Activity(ILSA), aims to detect moonquakes. The Langmuir Probe will estimate the density and variation of plasma in the moon’s environment, and the embedded sensors in the Laser Retro reflector will enable precise distance measurements using laser technology.
The collected sophisticated data will be sent back to ISRO in India for further research investigations. Additionally, the equipment collects data about lunar atmosphere to help prospects for future manned missions and possible habitation in near future to enhance our understanding of the lunar surface.
Chandrayan was blasted off to the lunar orbit byLVM-3, the propulsion module capable to lift very heavy payload of 2,148 kg Chandrayan 3. The launch vehicle LMV-3 was supported by a powerful liquid fuel cryogenic engine, built indigenously by India.
Launching of earlier two moon missions –Chandrayan1 (2009) and Chandrayan 2(2019) immensely helped to design and execute Chandrayan 3 voyage.Chandrayaan-2 in 2019,faced a crash during its soft landing attempt, resulting ina major setback for ISRO.
However, this time scientific team of ISRO led by Sundarsan, Vetuvelu, Ritu Srivatsava and others used this setback as an opportunity for improving and designing better landing of Vikram lander on rugged southern moon surface. The lander ‘Vikram’ named after the father of India’s space programme, the late Vikram Sarabhai, had successfully got separated from the orbiter in preparation for a landing on the moon. Ofcourse, the major goal ofChandrayaan-3 is to land safely on the lunar surface.
It should be noted that the budget of Chandrayan 3mission was nearly Rs 650crores, much less thanRs700 crores, spent on making the recent Bollywood religious film Adipurush.
With successful launch of Chandrayan 3 and better controlled landing on moon, India has become a fourth nation after United states, former USSR (Russia), and China. United States is luring India to join its NASA led space explorations in countering China and Russia. During PM Modi’s recent visit to USA, he agreed with President Biden to collaborate with NASA led space explorations. It should be remembered that only two decades back USA had refused to provide cryogenic liquid fuel technologies, fearing India’s emergence as a global player in space research, where assert while USSR had extended all its technical support and guidance to Indian space programmes since inception of Indian Space Research organization (ISRO) in 1969.
Till now India has launched different satellites like INSAT series to support its telecommunications, mobile, Internet network Spectrum data, remote sensing for agriculture, fisheries, weather forecasting. India has also supported Agni missiles and other defence related applications. However, with successful launching of Mangalyan, Chandrayan and other missions in future to Mars and Venus, India is entering into basic space research.
Religious obscurantists in the country led by right wing forces have been disturbed by the success of Chandrayan 3, and attempted to tarnish the image of space programmes. It also opposed the support by science. Already themes such as Darwinism, Periodic table, Euclidian geometry, environment and several parts of Indian history have been recently deleted from school text books by ministry of education. The war on science is deliberately waged to suppress questioning, rationalising and critical thinking among budding young Indians with an aim to drag the country back in to ancient dark ages.
The successful launch of moon mission and execution of soft landing would mark a significant milestone in India’s space achievements and pave the way for future space missions. Achievements in space research and science should be directed to address daily needs of people and not for profit seeking space tourism and military advances. Any attempt by religious obscurantists to tarnish spirit of scientific enquiry should be resisted strongly by sensible Indians. (IPA Service)