Chandrayaan 3: Vikram Lander's meticulous descent to pioneering lunar south pole touchdown
ISRO's Chandrayaan 3 mission nears a historic lunar touchdown. Explore the intricate phases of Vikram lander's descent near the South Pole.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is gearing up for the Automatic Landing Sequence (ALS) of Chandrayaan-3's Vikram lander on the lunar South Pole. The powered descent commenced at approximately 5:44 pm IST, and lasted around 20 minutes, during which the Vikram lander will go through four critical phases before touching down.
India's third Moon mission, launched on July 14 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, aims to make India the fourth nation to achieve a soft landing on the Moon and the first to do so near the lunar South Pole. Vikram's designated landing zone lies between the Manzinus C and Simpelius N craters, situated at approximately 69 degrees south latitude on the lunar surface.
Minute-by-Minute Descent of the 'Vikram' Lander
As of now, the 'Vikram' lander orbits the Moon at an altitude of 25 km horizontally. The initial phase is the "rough braking phase," starting 20 minutes before landing, during which the lander, traveling at a speed of 1.68 km per second, initiates descent. Four engines on Vikram will guide it towards the landing site. During this phase, the lander will reduce its altitude to 7.42 km while covering a distance of 713.5 km across the lunar surface. This phase spans approximately 11 minutes, concluding 4.5 minutes before landing, at which point only two of Vikram's engines will remain active.
Importantly, the entire landing process will occur automatically, with no intervention from the mission team. Once the ALS begins, the onboard computer takes control, and ISRO confirms the sequential execution of commands. The second phase is the "attitude hold phase," where the lander adjusts its orientation to a vertical position, covering a distance of 3.48 km.
Following this, the "fine-breaking phase" takes place, lasting approximately three minutes. During this phase, 'Vikram' will travel at a speed of 28.5 km per second and decrease its altitude to about 1 km within three minutes. The final 1.5 minutes of the sequence mark the terminal descent, during which the lander descends to the lunar surface, achieving near-zero velocity.
ISRO's meticulous planning and automatic landing process showcase India's commitment to lunar exploration. The successful execution of these precise phases will be a significant milestone in India's space endeavors, potentially unlocking valuable lunar discoveries in the region.