India’s Chandrayaan 3 lunar probe has just added another achievement to the new Asian space power’s first lunar mission. He managed it with a “simple” maneuver: taking a small jump.
40 centimeters. As the Indian space agency ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) announced, its first probe to successfully land on the moon, Chandrayaan 3, managed a jump maneuver on August 23rd. More precisely, it was his lander, Vikram, who achieved this feat.
The device activated its engines to rise and jump 40 centimeters above the lunar floor, allowing it to move 30 centimeters away from where it originally landed. The “jump experiment” implies that the probe landed “softly” on our satellite for the second time.
One small step for a probe… The interest in this maneuver lies not so much in the landing as in the jump. Accordingly, ISRO explains that restarting the engines on the Moon is just the first step in planning sample return missions and even manned missions.
India is the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon after the Soviet Union, the United States, and China, and it is also on track to become the fourth country to return lunar soil samples to Earth.
Unexplored regions. We have been collecting samples on the Moon for more than 50 years, and for decades, the space powers showed no interest in such round-trip flights to our satellite. The success of China’s Chang’e 5 sample collection mission may be the reason for this renewed interest.
And Chandrayaan 3 and this hypothetical sequel could contribute a lot to that. ISRO has chosen an unexplored region on site (the Moon’s south pole) that was discovered by previous lunar missions, which allowed the new probe to make some interesting discoveries about the area, such as that the temperature was slightly higher than expected.
The presence of sulfur is another key factor for future lunar missions. The probe observed this element thanks to its spectroscope, and it could be another reason for interest in collecting samples from the area to bring back to Earth. Of course, the presence of water is also of great interest. Thanks to the samples returned by Chang’e 5, Chinese scientists were able to obtain a new estimate of the large amount of water on our satellite.
Rest after training. As if it were an athlete, Chandrayaan 3 has gone into sleep mode for now. After the jump, Vikram performed a reboot of his systems, which confirmed that no damage had been done. Then it went into sleep mode.
This means that the mission teams will go into hibernation once their batteries are depleted and until the solar panels regain enough energy to turn on the power. Hardware continues. This is expected to happen around September 22nd.
A race with more runners. India has emerged as one of the main competitors in the new space race. A race in which not only the space agencies of the major powers compete against each other. The accession of the European Union and numerous private companies has democratized space exploration.
In this game of competition and cooperation, China and the United States are, for now, the front runners of “competition,” two countries that are not allowed to cooperate on aerospace issues for legal reasons. The moon will be one of the venues for this race. While the United States is seeking a return to the satellite through the Artemis program, China is aiming to become the second country to send people to the moon before the American return.
Mars is another key scenario. Both China and the United States (as part of a joint mission with the European Space Agency) want to be the first to bring back samples of Martian soil. At the moment, the Red Planet does not appear to be among India’s priorities, but as it gets closer to top leaders, the neighboring planet is expected to come into focus.