The crucial moments are approaching and tension, if not excitement, not only among the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists as well as other major space players like the US, China, Russia, Japan, Canada and Israel but also every Indian. The countdown for the Chandrayaan-3 has begun when the Lander got separated from Rover on the Moon’s surface a couple of days back and moved closer to landing in a few hours from now. One of the reasons behind the prevailing tensions was due to the entire landing process showing live on all television and social media platforms across the globe. Thus far, the last few hours of a terror-like tension is palpable. Another visible reason could be the recent failure of a similar Russian mission, which too launched more or less simultaneously. Yet, the overall ISRO success rate when compared to other players in the space industry is reasonably far ahead or good, for every Indian to feel proud. This also includes the project’s cost factor! Indian space research has come of age and today we could become facilitators to help other developed as well as developing nations in launching their space vehicles successfully. That too of launching multiple satellites in single go, which makes India unique, thus showing its prowess in the space technology simultaneously. Today Antrix Corporation, an ISRO subsidiary, stands tall in turning around India from an importer to exporter of components to build satellites. As a nation known for ‘blind beliefs’, as usual, one could see scenes over the past couple of days of people conducting prayers in the form of ‘havans’ and ‘pujas’ for the Chandrayaan-3 success.
Interestingly, India’s mission is viewed special as we will be the first to attempt a landing on the south pole. The region is believed to be of shadowed craters containing water and ice which could support a future moon settlement. India’s second attempt to land on the moon after a failure in 2019 is being seen as a display of the tenacity of its scientific institutions. It will also help encourage scientific inquiry among millions of students in the world’s most populous country. The successful launch of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-III with Chandrayaan-2 was a game-changer, showcasing India’s ability to handle heavy payloads. Now, with Chandrayaan-3, this capability has been further honed, leading to a future where India’s lunar missions are entirely homegrown. Success and failures of ISRO’s space missions include: 1981 – The Rohini Satellite RS-D1 was successfully placed in orbit. 1982 – Communication Satellite INSAT-1A was launched. 1984 – Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian astronaut drove Soyuz T-11 to space. 1987 – Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle ASLV-DR1 was launched with SROSS-1 satellite but failed. As far as future missions are concerned, Mars Orbiter Mission 2 (MOM 2), is proposed as a second interplanetary mission by the ISRO. Apart from that, it also has plans to launch the Radar Imaging Satellite – RISAT-1B aboard the PSLV rocket later this year or early next year. The Indian space agency with its GSLV also plans to put in orbit INSAT-3DS and two Indian Data Relay Satellite System satellites, too.
Meanwhile, with around 400 space companies globally, ISRO is considered the 6th largest and holds an exceptional launch success rate. The Chandrayaan-3 success may get India admittance to the elite group which set up the International Space Station (ISS), believed to be the largest modular space station in low Earth orbit. The project, as of now, involves five space agencies: the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Russia’s Roscosmos, Japan’s JAXA, Europe’s ESA, and Canada’s CSA. If ISRO gets to be part of ISS, it will be of great significance in India’s space history. Many space experts are of the firm view that if given the right amount of funding and time, ISRO can beat NASA. But, the only difference between ISRO and NASA is that the latter is the civilian space programme for aeronautical and aerospace research in the US, while ISRO is the premier space agency of India.
With the vision of becoming a major player in the global space market, India indeed has been making significant strides in the development of its space programme. To drive home this point is ISRO’s untiring efforts in promoting private participation in the space sector. Collectively domestic private companies in the space sector have raised more than $245.35 million in funding. As of today ISRO has signed agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with several countries and international organizations for joint missions and technology transfers. Recently, Microsoft has signed an MoU with ISRO to fuel space startups using technology tools and platforms. As part of this agreement, they will provide cloud-based technology like MS Azure and other AI-powered tools. India was the first Asian country to reach the Martian orbit with the Mangalyaan Mission (Mars Orbiter Mission) and the first country in the world to do so on its first attempt. Gaganyaan is the most important mission in the history of the Indian space programme, and it is going to be India’s first manned mission to space later this year. Against that backdrop, one can understand the curiosity and excitement over the Chandrayaan-3’s four-leg lander touching safely and to perfection as planned by ISRO around the scheduled time of 6.04 pm. Let’s all pray for a successful scientific mission!