The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to launch the third lunar mission of the country, Chandrayaan-3, in early 2021. The announcement was made by Jitendra Singh, the Minister of State for the Department of Science.
Earlier, the mission was expected to kick off in the second half of 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and extended lockdowns impeded the mission progress and called for a delay.
This lunar mission is India’s second attempt to demonstrate a soft landing on the moon. Before this, ISRO successfully launched the Chandrayaan-2 mission in July 2019. Chandrayaan-2 carried an orbiter, a lander, and a rover as part of the mission. However, on 7th September 2019, the Vikram moon lander suffered a crash and lost contact with the scientists on Earth. Despite repeated attempts, ISRO could not re-establish contact with the lander. Following this, ISRO decided to launch another mission – the Chandrayaan-3 – for a successful landing on the moon.
Chandrayaan-3, unlike its predecessor, Chandrayaan-2, will not carry an orbiter. Earlier, ISRO stated that Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter would be used to establish communication with Chandrayaan-3’s lander and rover during the lunar mission.
Chandrayaan-3 is ISRO’s attempt to fix previous mistakes. After a thorough analysis by experts, ISRO scientists incorporated certain changes in the new spacecraft. One such change was strengthening the landing legs so as to boost the landing chances on the lunar surface.
It is important to note that despite the failed landing of the Vikram lander, Chandrayaan-2 was a huge leap in the Indian space sector. Experts believe that the mission achieved a success rate of 95-98% as the orbiter is working perfectly well and is also sending data back to ISRO. This mission aided scientists in studying the moon, its atmosphere, topography, and composition, among other details.
Previously, ISRO had also planned the launch of the Gaganyaan flight in December 2020. However, ISRO had to postpone the launch owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The launch is now expected to tick off in 2021. ISRO Chairman, K. Sivan stated: