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Chandrayaan-3: A guide to India's third mission to the moon

Chandrayaan-3 is India's next moon mission.

Chandrayaan-3 is expected to launch to the moon no sooner than July 13, 2023, at 11:35 p.m. EDT (0335 GMT or 2:35 p.m. local time July 14) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India. It will fly to space aboard the medium-lift Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM3) rocket.

The mission and launch are managed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). ISRO's roots go back to the beginning of space exploration, as a predecessor agency was set up in 1962 and its first rocket launch was in 1963. ISRO itself was established in 1969.

In June 2023, shortly before the scheduled Chandrayaan-3 launch, India also signed on to the NASA-led Artemis Accords aiming for peaceful human and robotic exploration of the moon. While the immediate benefits of the accords accrue to human spaceflight, according to the White House, the data from Chandrayaan-3 may be useful for future Artemis human landings too.

Chandrayaan-3 costs roughly $77 million USD, according to the Times of India.

The three main objectives of Chandrayaan-3 are to land safely on the surface, to demonstrate rover operations and to perform scientific experiments on site, according to the official website. It is expected to land around Aug. 23 or Aug. 24, the Times of India wrote in a separate article.

The mission calls for a propulsion module to ferry the lander and the rover together to the south pole of the moon, according to NASA. The module will enter lunar orbit and maneuver into a roughly circular path about 60 miles (100 km) above the surface. Then the lander will separate from the module and aim for a soft landing on the surface.

The Lander and rover will collect science on the surface for 14 Earth days (a single day on the moon), while the propulsion module will gaze at our planet for its own science experiment.

The spacecraft package (rover, lander and propulsion module) includes "advanced technologies" to meet the mission objectives, ISRO says. Examples include hazard detection and avoidance on the rover, a landing leg mechanism to aim for a soft touchdown, and altimeters and velocity instruments to estimate altitude and speed above the moon.

ISRO has performed several technology tests to simulate lunar conditions, the agency emphasized, focusing on matters such as soaking instruments in cold temperatures similar to the moon or doing a lander leg test on a simulated surface under different landing conditions.

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