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Friday saw a significant milestone in India’s space exploration history, as the nation successfully launched its Chandrayaan-3 mission, paving the way for a potential controlled landing on the moon. If this comes to fruition, India will join the ranks of the United States, Russia, and China as the only countries to have achieved this complex operation.

Launch and Journey

The Chandrayaan-3, or “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, with more than a million people viewing the event on YouTube. Spectators from all around also flocked to the space center to witness this historic event in person.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, lauded the achievement on Twitter, saying, “Chandrayaan-3 scripts a new chapter in India’s space odyssey. It soars high, elevating the dreams and ambitions of every Indian.” The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) confirmed later that day that the Chandrayaan-3 had embarked on its moonward journey and was in a “precise orbit”.

The lunar landing of the spacecraft is expected to take place on August 23rd.

Past Missions and Looking Ahead

This mission comes as India’s second attempt at a soft landing, following the unfortunate failure of Chandrayaan-2 in 2019. The Chandrayaan-1, India’s first lunar probe, successfully orbited the moon and crash-landed onto its surface deliberately in 2008. According to ISRO, the primary objectives of Chandrayaan-1 were to design, develop, launch and orbit a spacecraft around the moon using an Indian-made launch vehicle.

Composed of a lander, a propulsion module, and a rover, Chandrayaan-3 has been developed by ISRO with the goal to land on the moon’s surface, conduct scientific experiments, and gather data to enhance our understanding of the moon’s composition.

Aiming for the Unexplored

ISRO engineers have spent years preparing for this mission, aiming to land the Chandrayaan-3 near the moon’s unexplored South Pole, a terrain marked by its complexity. The South Pole holds unique geological characteristics and potential ice deposits, sparking scientific interest and driving India’s ambitions to be the first to explore this region.

India’s Growing Presence in Space Exploration

India’s space program has grown exponentially over the past six decades, marking significant milestones along the way. In 2014, India became the first Asian nation to reach Mars with the Mangalyaan probe. The country’s space exploration endeavors are not confined to the moon or Mars. According to an ISRO statement, a proposal has also been made to send an orbiter to Venus.

India’s aspirations in space exploration do not stop here. During a state visit to Washington last month, both PM Modi and US President Joe Biden expressed a desire for increased collaboration in the space economy.

As India charts its course in space exploration, the successful launch of the Chandrayaan-3 marks a significant step toward fulfilling the nation’s celestial dreams. The mission’s success will not only symbolize India’s growing prowess in space technology but also establish it as a key player in the global space race.

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