The Indian space agency on Friday (18/8) released images of the Moon taken from the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft as it approached the moon’s south pole. The area has not previously been explored, and is thought to contain icy water. Russia itself is trying to reach that location first.
The video, taken on Thursday (17/8) just after the separation of the lander’s rocket from the propulsion module, shows close-up images of the craters as Earth’s only satellite rotates.
India’s space agency launched the rocket carrying the spacecraft on July 14, blasting off from the country’s main spaceport in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. The tool is scheduled to land on August 23.
Russia launched its first Moon landing spacecraft in 47 years on August 11. Moscow took the short route to reach the Moon’s south pole where scientists detected water ice that could be used for fuel, oxygen and drinking water for future lunar missions or Moon colonies.
Image taken from the camera of the Luna-25 spacecraft shows the Zeeman crater, August 17, 2023. (Photo: Roscosmos via Reuters)
The Russian Moon Mission is on course to land Luna-25 on August 21, two days before the Indian spacecraft.
The rugged terrain is expected to make it difficult to land on the moon’s south pole. The previous mission by the Indian space agency, Chandrayaan-2, crashed in 2019 near where Chandrayaan-3 was supposed to try to land.
Chandrayaan, which means “vehicle of the moon” in Sanskrit, is two meters high and was designed to scatter explorers. The vehicle is expected to remain operational for two weeks to carry out a series of experiments.
Both India and Russia share a national interest in a successful landing and in claiming the first history at stake.
For Russia, the moon landing project that has been in the works for decades will test the country’s growing independence in space after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine severs almost all ties with the West.
Russian space agency Roscosmos said the Luna-25 mission would spend 5-7 days in lunar orbit before descending to one of three possible landing sites near the poles.
For India, a successful moon landing will mark its emergence as a space powerhouse at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is looking to spur investment in private space launches and related satellite-based businesses.
Since 2020, when India opened up opportunities to launch private space missions, the number of startups working in space has more than doubled. Late last year, Skyroot Aerospace, whose investors include GIC, Singapore’s state investment fund manager, launched India’s first privately built rocket.
Indian officials have privately dismissed the Moon landing competition with Russia. They say there is no competition between the two countries. (ah/ft)