India writes space history. The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft made a successful landing on the moon, becoming the fourth country to do so, while it is expected to be the first country to explore the south pole of the moon, also known as the dark side. One of the mission’s main goals is to search for water-based ice, which scientists say could support human life on the moon in the future.
If Chandrayaan-3 is successful, India will be only the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon. India’s attempt comes just days after the Russian Luna-25 spacecraft crashed while trying to travel to the dark side of Earth’s natural satellite.
The Moon’s south pole holds special promise in the search for water ice. The surface of that area, which remains permanently in shadow, is very large and scientists say that it is very likely that water is found there.
During the journey to the South Pole of the Moon, India’s spacecraft has captured stunning images. In the last few days, Vikram’s camera has extensively mapped the lunar surface as it tries to find a safe landing site. The lander and rover carry five science instruments that will help reveal “the physical characteristics of the Moon’s surface, the near-surface atmosphere and tectonic activity to study what happens beneath the surface.”
The landing date is carefully chosen to coincide with the beginning of a lunar day. One day on the Moon is equal to 28 days on Earth, and that means the lander and rover will have 14 days of sunlight to charge their batteries. As soon as night falls, they will be discharged and stop working. It is not yet clear whether they will come back to life when the next lunar day begins.