The conspiracy theory according to which on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong never set foot on the moon is still solid today. Fortunately, despite certain bizarre positions, life goes on. AND from the afternoon of Wednesday 23 August 2023 (shortly after 2.30 pm Italian time) India is on the Moon. That is, it is the fourth country – after the United States, the Soviet Union and China – to have touched the lunar surface with a mission.
And it’s there too first nation, as we will explain later, to have explored a particular area of the planet. Let’s take a closer look what is Chandryaan-3 missionwhich allowed India to land on the moon.
L’Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO, in Italian Indian Organization for Space Research) announced on X the perfect success of the Chandryaan-3 mission.
And he did it with a post, published at 14:34 on August 23, right at the time of the moon landing. Post enthusiastic but all in all also informal, complete with emojis. Leggiamo infatti: “Chandrayaan-3 Mission: ‘India, I reached my destination and you too!’ Chandrayaan-3 has successfully soft-landed on the moon! Congratulations, India!”
In English: “Mission Chandrayaan-3: ‘India, I have reached my destination and so have you!’ Chandrayaan-3 successful soft landing on the moon! Congratulations, India!”
The Chandryaan-3 mission
After an automated descent of about 15 minutes, the Vikram lander has successfully completed a landing in the lunar South Pole region. And it is the first time that that area of the Moon has been explored. It is a target territory of the next American and Chinese lunar explorationsbecause it is almost always illuminated by the sun’s rays, even during most of the so-called lunar nights, which last 14 days.
Furthermore, in the same areas there are craters at the bottom of which it is present water ice that never meltsbecause it is not illuminated by the grazing rays of the Sun. It is one fundamental resourcebecause it would allow the extraction of large quantities of water and hydrogen, necessary for future missions, both for astronauts and as fuel.
The Pragyan rover inside the lander will explore the area for about two weeks. The time required for the solar rays to recharge the panels with which it is powered.
Chandrayaan-3 was launched last July 14 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in India, it entered lunar orbit on 5 August.
On 17 August the Vikram lander separated from the propulsion module and prepared for descent. The automated landing first involved a sharp braking, which brought the lander from 30 to 7.4 kilometers in height, while the second braking phase, which lasted three minutes, was gentler.
The operation ended with the vertical descent: a last short stretch of 800 meters up to soft moon landing, which took place when it was 2.34 pm in Italy.
The (very low) costs
India is on the moon. And, we might add, without even spending too much.
By comparison, in 2013 NASA’s Maven mission, which launched a probe to Mars, cost almost 600 million dollars. ISRO let it be known that the Chandrayaan-3 mission cost $74.6 millionjust over a tenth of Maven.
The low costs must be sought essentially for two reasons. Meanwhile, Indian scientists engaged in the development of national space missions they are paid significantly less than their colleagues European or US. Furthermore, the Indian Space Research Organization can count on a large number of small Indian companies and startups, which collaborate in all the various phases necessary for the realization of space projects. The Chandrayaan-3 mission follows Chandrayaan-2 by four years, which in 2019 he had not completed the moon landing of the lander.
Luna: Russia no, India yes
But India having landed on the moon makes another e even more sensational very recent failure, that of the Russian mission Luna-25. It was Moscow’s first mission in 47 years, and it set out to explore the areas around the lunar South Pole.
The Russian mission, from the cost of about 200 million dollars (according to ISRO statements), it happens to the Luna-24 mission, of 1976. And it ended with the crash of the probe on the lunar surface. There are those who see (or hope for) this difference in outcomes between the Russian and Indian lunar missions as a symbolic passing of the baton between one superpower in decline and another in the ascendant.