India’s Historic Chandrayaan-3 Orbiter Delivers Incredible Photos of the Moon

India’s Chandrayaan-3 rover reached lunar orbit on August 5 and has sent its first images of the Moon to Earth. Successfully entering lunar orbit is a critical step in the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) historic mission to the Moon.

As details, the Chandrayaan-3 launched on July 14 and is expected to attempt to land on the Moon’s south pole on August 23. At that time, the mission’s lander, Vikram, and its small lunar rover, Pragyan, will touch down and commence scientific operations.

Pragyan will explore the lunar surface for much of a lunar day, which is about two weeks on Earth. When nighttime arrives at the end of the lunar day, the rover will shut down and end its exploration.

The rover aims to investigate the composition of the lunar surface, find water ice in lunar soil, learn more about the history of lunar impacts, and help scientists solve mysteries about the evolution of the Moon’s atmosphere. The rover has a range of up to 500 meters (1,600 feet), so it can cover significant ground in its short life.

The rover includes an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) to determine the chemical composition of the lunar surface and a Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) to identify the elemental composition of lunar soil and rocks surrounding the landing site.

Assuming a successful landing, India will join the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China as the only countries to carry out a soft lunar landing successfully.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019 came close, although a last-minute issue in the orbiter’s landing software resulted in a crash landing after entering lunar orbit.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission has cost 6 billion rupees, which is just over $70 million, so there is a lot on the line as the ISRO seeks to make history.

ISRO hopes that a successful Chandrayaan-3 mission will propel the organization toward future interplanetary missions and further space exploration.