Written By Nischal Srinivasan (Grade 10)
In the vast expanse of space, India has carved a significant niche for itself with its space missions. Over the years, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has undertaken various ambitious lunar missions to unravel the mysteries of our celestial neighbours. From humble beginnings with Aryabhata to the ambitious Chandrayaan-3, let’s take a voyage through time to explore India’s remarkable lunar exploration endeavours.
1975 – Aryabhata: India’s First Satellite
The Indian space journey commenced on April 19, 1975, with the launch of Aryabhata, India’s first satellite. This milestone was achieved through collaboration with the Soviet Union, with the satellite launched by a Soviet Kosmos-3M rocket from Kapustin Yar, Russia.
1979 – SLV Satellite Launch Vehicle
In 1979, ISRO embarked on its first satellite launch vehicle, SLV 3. The initial attempt faced failure, but undeterred, in 1980, SLV 3 accomplished its first successful launch. The three-stage all-solid system paved the way for future space missions.
1993 – PSLV Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle
Taking a significant leap, ISRO introduced the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in 1993. Its first launch encountered challenges, but in 1994, PSLV D1 achieved its maiden successful mission. The four-stage S, L, S, L system became a reliable workhorse for satellite deployments.
2001 – GSLV Geo Satellite Launch Vehicle
India’s space journey entered a new phase in 2001 with the launch of GSLV, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. Successfully lifting off, GSLV marked the introduction of a three-stage launch vehicle with two solid and one liquid stage, along with a cryogenic stage.
2008 – Chandrayaan-1: India’s First Lunar Mission
On October 22, 2008, India etched its name in history with the launch of Chandrayaan-1, its first lunar mission. Utilizing the PSLV launcher, Chandrayaan-1 set out on a mission to explore the moon. Its objectives included the search for surface or sub-surface lunar water ice, particularly at the lunar poles. The orbiter weighed 1,380 kg and was a testament to India’s growing prowess in space exploration.
2014 – Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan)
India’s ambitious space program reached a milestone in 2014 with the Mars Orbiter Mission, fondly known as Mangalyaan. Launched using the PSLV launcher, Mangalyaan embarked on a journey to Mars, making India the first Asian country to reach the red planet.
2019 – Chandrayaan-2: India’s Second Lunar Mission
Continuing its lunar exploration efforts, ISRO launched Chandrayaan-2 on July 22, 2019. This time, a GSLV launcher carried the mission to the moon. Comprising an orbiter, a lander named “Vikram,” and a rover named “Pragyan,” Chandrayaan-2 sought to study lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere, and the presence of hydroxyl and water ice. While the lander and rover faced challenges during the landing, the orbiter continued to provide valuable data.
2022 – SSLV Small Satellite Launch Vehicle
India’s quest for technological advancements led to the development of SSLV, a small satellite launch vehicle. The suborbital mission “Prarambh” saw the successful launch of the SSLV rocket by Skyroot Aerospace, making them the first company to have an MOU with ISRO.
2023 – Chandrayaan-3: Paving the Way for Lunar South Pole Exploration
On July 14, 2023, Chandrayaan-3 embarked on a daring mission to soft-land near the lunar south pole, aiming to be the world’s first mission to do so. Riding atop the GSLV-MK III heavy-lift rocket, the mission carried three major modules – the propulsion module, the lander module, and the rover. The propulsion module, equipped with the “Spectro-Polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth” (SHAPE) payload, will guide the lander and rover to a 100 km lunar orbit. The lander, Vikram, is scheduled to make a soft landing on the Moon’s surface on August 23, 2023, with the rover, Pragyan, conducting an in-situ chemical analysis of the lunar surface.
India’s remarkable journey into space, with a focus on lunar exploration, has been a testament to its scientific prowess and dedication. From its early endeavours with Aryabhata to the ambitious Chandrayaan-3, India has consistently pushed boundaries, furthering our understanding of the moon and beyond. With each mission, ISRO has honed its skills, paving the way for future space exploration and solidifying India’s place in the cosmos. As the nation continues to explore new frontiers, the spirit of discovery and curiosity remains at the heart of India’s space odyssey.
Featured Image Courtesy – ORF