India has made history in the field of space exploration by becoming the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole and by launching a satellite to study the sun. These achievements demonstrate India’s technological prowess and scientific ambition, as well as its contribution to the global understanding of the solar system.
Chandrayaan-3: India’s First Lunar Landing
On Wednesday, August 23, 2023, India successfully landed a spacecraft near the moon’s largely unexplored south pole, making it the fourth country after the United States, Russia and China to achieve this feat. The spacecraft, named Chandrayaan-3, meaning “Mooncraft” in Sanskrit, carried a rover that will slide down a flap from the lander and conduct experiments on the lunar surface. The mission aims to analyze the mineral composition of the moon, as well as to search for signs of water ice and other resources in the permanently shadowed regions of the south pole.
The landing was a historic moment for India, which had attempted a similar mission in 2019 but failed due to a technical glitch. The Chandrayaan-3 mission was a low-cost and indigenous project, costing only about $150 million and involving more than 500 scientists and engineers from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and other institutions. The mission also received support from NASA, which provided a laser retroreflector to help measure the precise distance between the earth and the moon.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission was widely celebrated across India, where millions of people watched the live broadcast of the landing on television and social media. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated ISRO and the nation for achieving this milestone, saying that India had reached the south pole of the moon, which no other country had done before. He also said that India was witnessing history and that the mission would inspire future generations of scientists and explorers.
Aditya-L1: India’s First Sun Mission
Days after becoming the first nation to land a craft near the moon’s south pole, India’s space agency announced that it would launch a satellite to survey the sun on September 2, 2023. The satellite, named Aditya-L1, meaning “Sun” in Hindi, will be fired into a halo orbit in a region of space about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, providing it with a continuous clear view of the sun.
The satellite will carry seven payloads to observe the sun’s outermost layers, known as the photosphere and chromosphere, as well as its magnetic field and particle emissions. The mission will study the drivers for space weather, which can affect communication systems, satellites and power grids on Earth. It will also help understand the dynamics of solar wind, which is a stream of charged particles that flows from the sun and interacts with planetary atmospheres.
The Aditya-L1 mission will be India’s first space-based observatory to study the sun, following in the footsteps of NASA and ESA, which have previously placed orbiters to monitor our star. The mission will cost about $70 million and will have a lifespan of five years. ISRO said that the mission would provide a greater advantage of observing the solar activities and their effect on space weather in real time.
The Aditya-L1 mission is another example of India’s ambitious but cut-price space program, which has grown considerably in size and momentum since it first sent a probe to orbit the moon in 2008. India has also become the first Asian nation to put a craft into orbit around Mars in 2014 and plans to launch a three-day crewed mission into Earth’s orbit by next year. It also plans to send another probe to the moon with Japan by 2025 and an orbital mission to Venus within the next two years.
India’s space achievements have not only advanced its scientific knowledge and technological capabilities, but also enhanced its global prestige and soft power. As Modi said, India is now on the moon and on its way to explore the sun.