India’s ISRO launches Chandrayaan-3 mission to put lander and rover on Moon’s south pole, following failed 2019 attempt
India’s latest effort to put a lander on the Moon has lifted off, putting an unmanned spacecraft in to Earth orbit as the first step to a planned lunar landing next month.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched its LVM3 rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, India’s main spaceport, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh on Friday at 2:35 p.m. local time (0905 GMT).
About sixteen minutes later ISRO said it had successfully put the Chandrayaan-3 space vehicle into a looping Earth orbit that will later catapult it toward the Moon.
The launch follows India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019, which reached lunar orbit but saw its lander crash when attempting to land on the surface.
The roughly $77 million (£59m) Indian mission, whose name means “Moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, includes a 2-metre-tall lander intended to deploy a rover near the Moon’s south pole on 23 or 24 August, at the beginning of two-week lunar day.
The landing date is intended to provide the solar-powered lander with about 14 days of uninterrupted sunlight in which to carry out its experiments.
If the initial landing date proves impractical the lander will remain in lunar orbit for another month and attempt a landing in September, ISRO said.
The landing vehicle is to use the propulsion module in orbit as a communications relay station, with the Chandrayaan-2 orbiting module from 2019 as a backup.
ISRO said it has made several changes to the lander since the 2019 mission, including building stronger legs, increasing landing-speed tolerance and the addition of new sensors for measuring approach speed.
Experiments carried out by the rover and lander include analysis of the lunar surface’s chemical composition, analysis of plasma gas at surface level, and the thermal and seismic properties of the south polar region.