The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Dark side of the moon: India’s space program soars to new heights

The Chandrayaan-3 integrated module sits within an ISRO hangar prior to its launch on July 14. It took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on a Launch Vehicle Mark-3 rocket. (Provided by ISRO)

India has unveiled ambitious plans to send an astronaut to the moon by 2040 and establish its own space station, “Bharatiya Antariksha Station,” by 2035, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday Oct. 17. During that announcement, he also called for scientists to work on Venus and Mars missions and develop a plan for future moon exploration. This comes on the heels of the successful Chandrayaan-3 mission, which established India as a serious player in space exploration.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory test engineer Brad Kinter noted how India’s strides in this sector benefit the whole world due to the highly cooperative nature of space exploration. With India signing the Artemis Accords, there are plans for it to collaborate with the nations running the International Space Station to send an Indian astronaut up in 2024. Kinter believes that the environment of friendly competition helps push humanity as a whole onwards and upwards, as scientific innovations and discoveries are not confined to specific countries.

“Some of these countries don’t really have a platform to get started on their own, but they still have very talented engineers,” he said. “We all have a common goal to explore, and these [innovations] really push the envelope faster than we could do on our own.”

We all have a common goal to explore, and these [innovations] really push the envelope faster than we could do on our own

— Brad Kinter, Jet Propulsion Laboratory test engineer

India successfully landed its Chandrayaan-3 mission spacecraft on the south pole of the moon on August 23, joining the ranks of the United States, Russia and China. The moon lander, Vikram, also carried a solar-powered lunar rover named Pragyan, equipped with two navigational cameras for viewing as well as a spectrometer and spectroscope for identifying the chemical composition of samples. Through this mission, scientists hoped to identify water on the moon and map the terrain of the moon’s south pole. India’s Vikram lander is the first spacecraft to touch down on the south pole of the moon, a region unexplored by humans.

“The fact that India is now in that very elite group of nations that can work toward a really lofty goal and achieve it is very exciting,” upper school physics teacher Mark Brada said. “So, it’s great for India for sure, but it’s also great for the world too because more nations are able to achieve high levels of technical achievement.”

With Chandrayaan-3, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India’s national space agency, hoped to achieve a safe and smooth landing and then deploy and collect chemical data with the Pragyan rover. They hit both of these targets.

India’s LVM3 rocket, carrying the lunar lander and rover, launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre on July 14. The Chandrayaan-3 mission continues the work of the previous Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, which ended after the spacecraft crashed into the surface of the moon due a thruster malfunction in a fashion similar to Russia’s Luna 25 failure. The thruster on Russia’s lander fired for 50% longer than it should have, leading to it crashing into the Moon. Astronomy club member Cynthia Wang (12) attributes India’s recent success to their methodical trial and error process as they eliminated the problems that had led to past failures.

It just comes down to precision. [Because] India had failed a few years before, they already knew what went wrong with the first drone landing in the same location.

— Cynthia Wang (12), astronomy club member

“It just comes down to precision,” Cynthia said. “[Because] India had failed a few years before, they already knew what went wrong with the first drone landing in the same location. After seeing those calculation errors and observing those mistakes, they were able to [correct] that in this current mission, which allowed them to successfully land in the south pole.”

Indian astronomer and physicist Dr. Vikram Sarabhai founded ISRO in 1969 with the goal of advancing India’s space initiatives, and the organization has since grown into a space agency on par with the world’s best. Currently, the agency operates one of the largest satellite constellations globally and plans to send astronauts to space in the near future. 

Chandrayaan-3 isn’t the first lunar rover launched by ISRO. Unlike Chandrayaan-2, which crashed during landing, Chandrayaan-1 landed successfully on the moon in 2008 and carried out missions similar to the current one, including surveying the landscape and detecting traces of water-ice on the moon. Going forward, ISRO wants to set up its own space station with the capability to support three astronauts, in addition to expanding its satellite sensing capabilities. Additionally, a Mars orbiter, crewed mission to the moon, and space telescope are all in the works. These missions highlight ISRO’s growing capabilities and suggest that the field of space exploration has a bright future ahead.

“Mankind is going to face challenges due to climate change, and the means to observe and manage them can be done through satellite technology,” said ISRO’s deputy director Dr. Rajashree Bothale. “Apart from this there is a need to explore other planets; going to [the] moon and Mars are obvious steps in those directions.”  “[The] future [of] space technology is very bright.”

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About the Contributors
Victor Gong
Victor Gong, Co-STEM Editor
Victor Gong (11) is the co-stem editor for Harker Aquila and the Winged Post, and this is his third year on staff. This year, Victor hopes to work with the journalism staff to create engaging pieces, and he also looks forward to meeting new people through interviews. Some of Victor’s hobbies include gaming, piano and programming, and he also has a passion for food.
Mihir Kotbagi
Mihir Kotbagi, Reporter
Mihir Kotbagi (10) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is his second year on staff. This year, Mihir is looking to hone his photography skills and learn more about the ins and outs of journalism. In his free time, he likes to play chess, read books, and program.

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