- By Geeta Pandey
- BBC News, Delhi
India’s space agency has released its latest images of the moon as its third lunar probe begins its descent toward the little-explored South Pole.
The images were taken by Chandrayaan-3’s lander Vikram, which began the final phase of its mission on Thursday.
Vikram, carrying the rover in its belly, is set to land near the South Pole on August 23.
Black and white images show close-ups of rocks and craters on the moon’s surface. One of the photos also shows the propulsion module.
Chandrayaan-3 and Russia’s Luna-25 are among the two spacecraft headed for the moon’s south pole, both expected to land next week.
Luna-25 – Russia’s first lunar mission since 1976 when it was part of the Soviet Union – was launched last week and is expected to make history by making a soft landing on August 21 or 22, days before the Indian touchdown. If it succeeds, Chandrayaan-3 will become a close second in reaching the South Pole.
However, India will be the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said on Friday that the lander module has begun its descent into low orbit.
Chandrayaan-3, the third in India’s lunar exploration programme, is expected to build on the success of its previous lunar missions.
It comes 13 years after the country’s first lunar mission in 2008, which detected the presence of water molecules on the dry lunar surface and established that the moon has an atmosphere during daytime.
Chandrayaan-2 — comprising an orbiter, a lander and a rover — was launched in July 2019, but was only partially successful. Its orbiter still orbits and surveys the Moon, but the lander failed to make a soft landing and crashed on touchdown.
ISRO chief Sridhara Panicker Somanath said the space agency had carefully analyzed data from its crash and carried out simulation exercises to fix problems with the 3,900 kg, 6.1 billion rupee ($75m; £58m) Chandrayaan-3. The lander module weighs about 1,500 kg including the 26 kg rover payload.
The moon’s south pole has yet to be explored — the shadowed surface is much larger than the moon’s north pole, and scientists say the permanently shadowed regions are likely to contain water.
One of the main goals of both Chandrayaan-3 and Luna-25 is to hunt for water ice that would enable humans to live on the moon in the future. Can also be used for that Propulsion of spaceships visited Mars and other distant places.
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