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India Launches Chandrayaan-3 Lunar Mission to the Moon's South Pole

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Photo: Chandrayaan-3 is India's next moon mission, Source: Nasa.gov
Photo: Chandrayaan-3 is India's next moon mission, Source: Nasa.gov

The third space mission of India's lunar program was launched on Thursday, July 14, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, according to Independent. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed that Chandrayaan-3, aboard the GSLV Mark III rocket, successfully entered Earth's orbit to carry out maneuvers, with the spacecraft planned to land on the unexplored lunar South Pole on August 23-24. The unmanned spacecraft, named Chandrayaan-3, which translates to "lunar vehicle" in Sanskrit, consists of an orbiter, the Vikram lander, and the Pragyan rover. It will take the spacecraft around 15 to 20 days to reach the lunar orbit and commence its ambitious mission to explore the lunar surface, particularly focusing on measuring the thermal properties and seismic activity. If the landing is successful, India will join the exclusive "lunar club" and become the fourth country, after the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China, to achieve a soft landing on the lunar soil.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "Chandrayaan-3 scripts a new chapter in India's space odyssey. It soars high, elevating the dreams and ambitions of every Indian. This momentous achievement is a testament to our scientists' relentless dedication. I salute their spirit and ingenuity!"

Chandrayaan-3 marks India's third attempt to reach the lunar pole. The first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, was launched in 2008 and conducted only orbital research of the Moon, without a planned landing on the lunar surface. The Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019 was only partially successful: the orbiter continues to orbit the Moon to this day, but the lander crashed during landing due to a technical issue with the braking system.

The lunar South Pole is of great interest to international space agencies due to the high probability of water ice presence, which could enable resource mining and support the operation of lunar bases.

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