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What is the main task of India’s third moon mission which could not be achieved in its earlier mission? List the countries that have achieved this task. Introduce the subsystems in the spacecraft launched and explain the role of the Virtual Launch Control Centre’ at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre which contributed to the successful launch from Sriharikota.

India’s third lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3, built on the endeavors of Chandrayaan-2, primarily aims to demonstrate the nation’s capability for a safe landing and roving on the lunar surface, especially targeting the moon’s south pole. This mission follows Chandrayaan-2, which, while successful in orbiting the moon, faced challenges in achieving a soft landing.

Primary Objective:
To establish India’s prowess in achieving a soft landing on the lunar surface and subsequent roving, especially at the moon’s south pole. This also extends to developing and demonstrating new technologies for interplanetary missions.

Achievements by Countries in Lunar Landing:

1959Russia (Soviet Union)Luna-2 (hard land); Soft landing achieved by Luna-9 in 1966
1969United StatesApollo-11 (soft-landed with Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin)
2013ChinaChang’e-3 (soft-landed with rover Yutu)
2019ChinaChang’e-4 (first worldwide to land on the dark/far side of the moon)
2023IndiaChandrayaan-3 (soft-landed with Pragyan rover)

Key Subsystems in Chandrayaan-3:

  1. Propulsion Module:
    • SHAPE: Aids in the discovery of smaller planets and exoplanets in habitable zones akin to Earth.
  2. Vikram Lander:
    • RAMBHA: Measures near-surface plasma densities over time.
    • ChaSTE: Carries out measurements of lunar surface thermal properties near polar regions.
    • ILSA: Measures seismicity around the landing site to deduce the lunar crust and mantle structure.
    • LRA: Passive system to enhance understanding of the lunar system.
  3. Pragyan Rover:
    • LIBS: Determines the moon surface’s chemical composition through elemental analysis.
    • APXS: Determines the elemental composition of lunar soil and rocks around the landing site.

Virtual Launch Control Centre (VLCC) at VSSC’s Role:

  • Serves as a complementary facility to the main launch site, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
  • Facilitates remote system checkouts from Thumba.
  • Ensures the LVM3 launch vehicle, developed by VSSC (ISRO’s lead unit for launch vehicles), functions as intended.
  • Remotely conducts all system check-outs up to 14 minutes and 30 seconds before lift-off, ensuring the successful transportation of Chandrayaan-3.

Chandrayaan-3 stands as a testament to ISRO’s advancing capabilities in space technology. The experiences and knowledge gleaned from this mission are expected to significantly contribute to upcoming ventures like Shukrayaan, Gaganyaan, and Aditya-L1, further placing India on the global forefront of space exploration.

February 2024