Each milestone of India’s Chandrayaan 3 spacecraft has been cheered by the country, not least because its predecessor had failed to soft-land on the Moon in 2019. Last week, the Indian Space Research Organisation released images of the little-explored south pole of the Moon, as captured by its lander Vikram, that gave us close-up views of craters thought to hold many secrets. On Monday, the lander established contact with Chandrayaan 2’s orbiter, which has been in lunar orbit for four years. “Welcome, buddy!” was the space veteran’s cheerful message for the new mission’s lander module, having helped spot a landing location for its newcomer buddy. This conversation is set to continue, getting increasingly more complex as the orbiter relays data back to India from the lander, though direct communication links exist too. Wednesday’s landing has been strategically planned to coincide with sunrise on the Moon, which would give the lander a 14-day window to work—a calculation that was factored into its construction. While Indians watch with bated breath, aware of the mission’s difficulty and Russia’s Luna-25 crash, remember this is about science, not boasting rights.
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Updated: 21 Aug 2023, 11:49 PM IST