Bangalore, India – India, aiming to join the elite group of nations that have successfully executed a controlled landing on the moon, achieved a momentous milestone on Friday with the successful launch of its Chandrayaan-3 mission. The spacecraft, named after the Sanskrit term for “moon vehicle,” took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in the southern Andhra Pradesh state, precisely at 2:30 pm local time (5 am ET). Witnessed by an enthralled crowd at the space center and over a million viewers on YouTube, the launch marked a significant leap for the Indian space program.

Confirming the mission’s progress, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) later tweeted that Chandrayaan-3 is currently in a “precise orbit” and has commenced its voyage towards the moon. Additionally, ISRO assured that the spacecraft is in a “normal” state of health, indicating a smooth journey thus far, reports CNN.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to express his pride and admiration for the groundbreaking endeavor, stating, “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’ continuous dedication. I salute their spirit and ingenuity!”

The ambitious mission is projected to culminate in a soft landing on the lunar surface on August 23. Chandrayaan-3 marks India’s second attempt at achieving this feat, following the unsuccessful Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019. The inaugural lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, successfully orbited the moon before being intentionally crash-landed in 2008.

Chandrayaan-3, developed by ISRO, comprises a lander, propulsion module, and rover. Its primary objective is to safely touch down on the moon’s surface, gather crucial data, and conduct a series of scientific experiments to enhance our understanding of lunar composition. If successful, India will join an exclusive club of nations—currently consisting of the United States, Russia, and China—that have achieved the intricate feat of a soft landing on the moon.

Engineers in India have dedicated years of effort to realize this groundbreaking mission. Their aim is to land Chandrayaan-3 in the challenging and unexplored terrain of the moon’s South Pole. India’s maiden lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, made the pivotal discovery of water molecules on the moon’s surface, while Chandrayaan-2 successfully entered lunar orbit but encountered a rover crash-landing on the intended site, also situated at the moon’s South Pole.

Despite the setback, Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauded the mission’s engineers and vowed to continue supporting India’s space program and its aspirations. Just prior to Friday’s launch, Modi declared that the day “will always be etched in golden letters as far as India’s space sector is concerned,” underscoring the significance of this mission in India’s quest for scientific advancement.

India has invested approximately $75 million into the Chandrayaan-3 mission, and Prime Minister Modi announced that the rocket will traverse over 300,000 kilometers (186,411 miles) to reach the moon in the coming weeks.

India’s journey in space exploration traces back over six decades to when the country, then a newly independent republic grappling with deep poverty and the aftermath of a partition, launched its first rocket in 1963. Initially, India faced an insurmountable challenge, with the United States and the former Soviet Union leading the space race by a wide margin.

Today, India stands as the world’s most popular nation and the fifth-largest economy, boasting a thriving young population and a burgeoning center of innovation and technology. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, India’s space ambitions have been revitalized, representing the country’s ascent on the global stage.

In 2014, India became the first Asian nation to successfully reach Mars with its Mangalyaan probe, accomplishing the feat at a cost of $74 million, less than the budget of the Hollywood space thriller “Gravity.” Three years later, India broke records by launching 104 satellites in a single mission.

Highlighting India’s progress, in 2019, Modi announced via a televised address that the nation had successfully conducted an anti-satellite test by shooting down one of its satellites—an achievement matched by only three other countries.

ISRO’s former chairman, Kailasavadivoo Sivan, disclosed in 2019 that India’s space agency plans to establish an independent space station by 2030. Presently, the International Space Station, a collaborative effort of several countries, and China’s Tiangong Space Station are the sole options for crewed space expeditions.

India’s rapid strides in space technology have transformed it into one of the most attractive sectors for investors, garnering attention from global leaders. During Indian Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit to the United States, both he and President Joe Biden expressed their desire for increased collaboration in the space economy.

India’s space ambitions extend beyond the moon and Mars, as ISRO has proposed a future mission to Venus, aiming to send an orbiter to explore the planet’s mysteries and potential scientific discoveries.

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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