The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) completed a major maneuver for the Chandrayaan-3 mission on Friday when it performed Vikram Lander’s first deboosting operation to enter a lower orbit around the Moon. This means now the Lander Module (LM) is much closer to the lunar surface than it was before. ISRO also shared a set of visuals of the Moon captured by the camera sensors on the LM which were taken a day prior. In these breathtaking photos, we can see a close-up view of the Moon with the Earth in the background. Now, the mission is entering its final legs. A second deboosting is scheduled for August 20, and then the eventual landing will take place on August 23.
This image of the Moon was captured shortly after the Vikram Lander separated from the Propulsion Module of the spacecraft. This happened on Thursday, however, the images were shared by ISRO on Friday. The image highlights the craters on the Moon’s surface that were marked on the photographs released by ISRO as ‘Fabry’, ‘Giordano Bruno’ and ‘Harkhebi J’.
The space agency shared on X (formerly Twitter) the images captured by the Lander Position Detection Camera (LPDC) on August 15, and visuals from the Lander Imager (LI) Camera-1 on August 17 — just after the separation of the Lander Module from the Propulsion Module.
First deboosting successful for Chandrayaan-3
For the unaware, deboosting of the lander module of Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft means the process where the Vikram Lander is both lowered and slowed down to an orbit where both the orbit’s closest and farthest points to the Moon (also known as Perilune and Apolune) are just a few kilometers away from the spacecraft.
Deboosting is important so that when the eventual landing takes place, the lander is not moving so fast that it is not able to come to a halt without damaging itself.
As per ISRO, Chandrayaan-3 will now carry out two orbit-reduction maneuvers where it will initially enter a lower 100 x 100 km orbit, before settling in a 100 x 30 orbit. The spacecraft will then make its final descent for a lunar touchdown, which is expected to occur on August 23. The second deboosting has been scheduled for August 20 at 2 AM IST, as per ISRO.
On the other hand, the propulsion module will continue in its current orbit for months or even years. The Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload aboard the module will carry out a series of experiments, such as a spectroscopic study of the Earth’s atmosphere, measurement of variations in polarization from the clouds on Earth, and collection of Exoplanet signatures that would qualify for our habitability.
If Chandrayaan-3 successfully lands on the lunar surface, India will become the fourth nation to touch down on lunar soil, after the US, former USSR, and China.