New Delhi: After a journey through space of a month and nine days, India’s Chandrayaan-3 will attempt a historic soft landing in the Moon’s south pole region later today. If Chandrayaan-3 soft lands successfully, India will be only the fourth country to do so on the Moon’s surface and the first to do so near its south pole.
While there is already considerable public interest in the impending landing, with wall to wall media coverage, the Union government is going the extra mile to ensure a captive audience for an event that is being seen by it as a great PR and political opportunity – with BJP leaders describing the mission as “one more achievement for the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
According to a notice issued by Union education secretary K. Sanjay Murthy, a live telecast of Chandrayaan-3’s movements will begin at 5:27 pm this evening on Doordarshan, ISRO’s website, and its Facebook and YouTube pages.
The secretary said all government universities should hold special assemblies at 5:30 pm today, where students and faculty can watch the live telecast and “get an opportunity to witness this momentous occasion”.
The mission was launched on July 14 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota.
While the landing is scheduled for 6:04 pm, Nilesh M. Desai, Director, Space Applications Centre-Isro, Ahmedabad, said it was possible that the landing would be postponed to August 27 if the conditions this evening are not favourable. “On August 23, two hours before Chandrayaan-3 lands on the Moon, we will take a decision on whether or not it will be appropriate to land it at that time based on the health of the lander module and the conditions on the Moon,” Desai told ANI.
The Chandrayaan programme for lunar exploration was first announced by Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister in 2003. Chandrayaan-1 was launched in 2008 – and successfully competed its mission of crash landing a probe on the Moon’s surface – when Manmohan Singh was prime minister. The Manmohan Singh government’s plans for Chandrayaan-2 got delayed because of Russia’s inability to provide a lander in time so the project was recast to envisage India building the lander on its own. When launched eventually in 2019, Chandrayaan-2 was unable to make the planned soft landing – a task ISRO is confident Chandrayaan-3 will accomplish.