Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-3, the word for “moon craft” in Sanskrit, travels after it was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.
Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo
India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft is set to try landing on the moon’s south pole on Wednesday.
India’s first attempt failed. Israel and Russia have also crashed landers on the water-rich south pole.
Watch India’s space agency try, again, to become the first nation to land on the lunar south pole.
India is about to try landing a robot on the moon’s south pole — a space feat that has stumped everyone who tried it so far.
If successful, India will become the first country to touch down on what is thought to be the most water-rich region on the moon.
Whoever can mine that water-ice and break it down into oxygen and hydrogen, will then have the resources to lead future space exploration including building crewed bases on the moon and manufacturing rocket fuel for missions to Mars and beyond.
In this rush for the lunar south pole, India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is scheduled to make its new landing attempt on Wednesday.
The livestream of the landing attempt, below, begins at 7:50 a.m. Eastern Time. Touchdown is scheduled for 8:34 a.m. ET.
India, Russia, and Israel have all tried and failed
Russia is the latest nation to fumble a lunar south-pole landing.
During a maneuver to push itself into an orbit that would carry it to its descent, the Luna-25 spacecraft fired its engines for too long, Roscosmos reported.
The agency lost contact with the spacecraft on Saturday and determined that it crashed into the moon.
Luna-25 joins the wreckage of Israel’s Beresheet lander and India’s failed first attempt.
If first you don’t succeed try, try, again
The landing attempt scheduled for Wednesday will be India’s second try.
“I hope they’re successful,” Robert Braun, head of the Space Exploration Center at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, told Insider.
“That would be a pretty significant achievement,” he added.
Members of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party perform Hindu rituals for the success of Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 inside a temple in Mumbai.
Rajanish Kakade/AP Photo
ISRO sent its first spacecraft to the moon’s south pole in September 2019. The Chandrayaan-2 mission dropped a lander called Vikram toward the lunar surface.
On its descent, just 1.3 miles above the moon’s surface, the Vikram lander diverged from its intended path and lost communication with operators on Earth.
Later, NASA’s lunar orbiter spotted the wreckage of Vikram on the moon below. India is trying again with this new mission, called Chandrayaan-3.
As with any descent and landing operation, hundreds of pre-programmed actions must go perfectly, in the correct sequence, for the spacecraft to make it to the surface intact and functioning.
Because landing happens so quickly, there is no opportunity for operators on Earth to intervene. The new Vikram lander will be on its own.
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan displays a model of Chandrayaan 2 orbiter and rover during a press conference at their headquarters in Bangalore, India.
Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo
“Spaceflight is hard, and landing on another planetary surface is among the hardest things that we do in spaceflight. So it’s the hardest of the hard,” said Braun, who has worked on landing and descent teams for multiple NASA missions to Mars.
India faces an extra challenge because its lander is small, increasing the risk that it will tip over if it hits a boulder on the moon’s surface.
“I’m really interested to see what happens,” Braun said.