India's Chandrayaan-3 enters lunar orbit, sends new visuals

After lunar insertion, ISRO's main goal is to prepare Chandrayaan-3 for a gentle landing on the lesser-explored southern pole of the Moon by around August 23.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Chandrayaan-3 mission launch.
Chandrayaan-3 mission launch.


The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-3 achieved a major mission milestone on August 5.

The spacecraft successfully entered lunar orbit after orbiting Earth five to six times in an elliptical cycle for over a week. Employing a slingshot maneuver, it adopted an approach that propelled it into translunar orbit, where it became ensnared by the gravitational pull of the Moon. 

The agency also released the first visuals of Earth's natural satellite acquired by the spacecraft. 

The video, which was shared on X (previously Twitter), showed a close-up look at the pockmarked Moon from various angles. 

On July 14, India launched its third lunar mission onboard the powerhouse Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LM-3) rocket from the spaceport at Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. 

What’s next? 

Following the lunar insertion, the ISRO's ultimate goal is to prepare Chandrayaan-3 for a soft landing on the Moon's less-explored south pole around August 23. 

This will be accomplished by gradually decreasing the spacecraft's speed over the next few weeks. 

“As the mission progresses, a series of maneuvers have been planned to gradually reduce Chandrayaan-3’s orbit and position it over the lunar poles,” noted the ISRO statement posted on X. 

According to ISRO, the first such orbit-lowering maneuver was performed on August 6, while the next has been scheduled for August 9.

At least three lunar maneuvers will be performed to bring the spacecraft to a height of 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the selected landing spot. The spacecraft is currently in a 273 km x 6941 km (170 km x 4313 km) orbit around the moon.

Once the spacecraft reaches this optimal landing altitude, the lander and rover will gradually separate from the propulsion module.  

In the upcoming tension-filled phases, a sequence of intricate maneuvers will be executed to attain a gentle touchdown.

A successful touchdown will make India the first country to land on Moon's south pole. Furthermore, the country will join a small group of nations that have made a soft landing on the Moon, mainly the United States, the Soviet Union, and China.

14 Earth days to collect vital lunar surface data

The Chandrayaan-3 mission consists of a lander and a rover, both of which are equipped with advanced science instruments meant to deepen our understanding of the Moon's south pole.

Shortly after landing, the lander will release the six-wheeled tiny rover from its belly, which weighs only 57 pounds (26 kilograms).

The solar-powered lander and rover will have roughly one lunar day, or 14 Earth days, to study their surroundings and collect vital lunar data. 

The Moon's south pole is one of the most unexplored lunar areas as well as a great target for future deep space missions.

Scientific evidence suggests that the region hosts a huge reservoir of ice inside permanently shadowed craters. Some of these craters haven’t received sunlight for billions of years and have temperatures as low as -334°F (-203°C). Investigating these pristine craters might also provide insights into the formative stages of the solar system.