Chandrayaan-3 Triumphs in Lunar Landing, India Poised to Redefine Cost-effective Space Missions

Chandrayaan-3 Triumphs in Lunar Landing
India's spacecraft, Chandrayaan-3, has successfully landed on the surface of the moon. This achievement makes India the fourth country to successfully land on the moon. (Image: AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
India's spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 has successfully landed on the moon's surface, propelling the nation into the prestigious club of countries that have achieved lunar landings.

What's more, India has become the first country to land near the moon's South Pole, a remarkable feat that has garnered global acclaim. "They should be extremely proud of this accomplishment," remarked Jim Bridenstine, who led NASA as its administrator from 2018 to 2021, in an interview with CNBC on Thursday (August 24, 2023).

One of the most remarkable aspects of India's moon landing is its budget-friendly approach, especially by government standards. Back in 2020, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) estimated that the Chandrayaan-3 mission would cost around USD 75 million or approximately IDR 1.14 quadrillion (assuming an exchange rate of IDR 15,248 per US dollar).

This launch was delayed by two years, likely leading to an increase in the overall mission cost. ISRO has not yet responded to CNBC's request for updated cost figures.

Nevertheless, this cost competes with the lowest-cost moon landing missions being developed in the United States. In recent years, NASA has turned to companies competing for fixed-price contracts to build lunar landers under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

The CLPS program has a maximum budget of USD 2.6 billion over a 10-year period, with 14 companies vying for mission contracts, each typically valued at over USD 70 million.

Overall, NASA's annual budget is significantly larger compared to India. In 2023, the United States' space agency received funding amounting to USD 25.4 billion, in contrast to ISRO's budget of around USD 1.6 billion.

Bridenstine highlighted that NASA's much larger budget is a reflection of the "different level of capability" it offers, ranging from a continuous astronaut presence in orbit to missions targeting planets, asteroids, and beyond.

India's Growing Prestige

Based on the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) allocated to space activities, the United States spends the most, albeit only accounting for 0.28% of its GDP. This surpasses India's expenditure of 0.04% of its GDP, according to a Space Foundation report in July 2023.

"In their ambitions, India needs to have a desire to invest more and develop capabilities more commensurate with the United States," remarked Bridenstine.

India is increasingly viewed as a prominent player in the geopolitical space arena. Although China has emerged as the most significant rival to the United States' influence and capabilities in space, India may still hold the third position in the global space power hierarchy.

"I hope that they will use Chandrayaan-3 as an opportunity to leverage that success," Bridenstine added.

He further noted that India possesses a robust economy and can allocate funds for space exploration. As costs continue to decrease, it becomes a positive development for all space enthusiasts, as the growth in missions is due to an increasing number of companies participating.

India Makes Historic Strides with Rover Landing at Lunar South Pole

India Successfully Lands Chandrayaan-3 Spacecraft on the Moon. (Image: ISRO)
Previously reported by Tekno, India's successful landing of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon marks a historic achievement. India is now the first country to successfully land a spacecraft at the moon's southern pole.

Other countries – the United States, the Soviet Union, and China – have only managed to land spacecraft near the lunar equator.

The southern pole of the moon poses a challenging terrain. According to scientists and space organizations around the world, the lunar south pole's craters, which are perpetually shadowed, contain trapped water ice within rocks. This ice can be extracted and used to support human presence on the moon permanently.

Additionally, the lunar pits can be utilized to construct advanced-generation telescopes, enabling astronomers to peer further into space than currently possible.

As per Engadget, on Thursday (August 24, 2023), Chandrayaan-3's success comes four years after India's lander, Vikram, from Chandrayaan-2, crashed due to software errors.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) designed a follow-up mission with a "failure-based design" that includes more backup systems, a larger landing area, and software updates.

Vikram will be left undisturbed for several hours to allow lunar dust to settle. After the area is clear, the rover Pragyaan will be deployed to take photos and gather scientific data.

Combined, the lander and rover will feature five instruments aimed at measuring lunar atmospheric, surface, and tectonic properties.

ISRO scheduled the landing during the beginning of the lunar day (approximately 28 Earth days) to maximize the available solar energy for Vikram and Pragyaan.

ISRO shared images of the lunar surface obtained through the spacecraft on their Twitter account (@isro), indicating successful communication between the Ch-3 Lander and MOX-ISTRAC, Bengaluru.

"Chandrayaan-3 has selected a relatively flat region on the moon's surface," stated ISRO.

Following this success, India is determined to become a major player in space exploration, aiming to launch its own space station by 2030.

The gathered information is crucial for future moon missions for India and other nations, as the discovered ice can serve as fuel, oxygen, and water resources.

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