Title: India’s ISRO Makes Surprise Announcement in Chandrayaan 3 Mission
India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has recently made a significant announcement regarding its Chandrayaan 3 mission. Revealing a surprise development, ISRO announced that it has successfully returned the propulsion module used in the Chandrayaan 3 spacecraft to a high orbit around Earth.
This achievement comes in the wake of ISRO’s historic landing of the Vikram lander on the Moon’s surface three months ago, making India the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon. Building on this success, the propulsion module played a crucial role in delivering the Vikram 3 lander to a low-lunar orbit 100 km above the Moon’s surface.
After fulfilling its primary purpose, the module was shifted to an orbit around the Moon at an altitude of 150 km to support a science experiment called SHAPE. However, to everyone’s surprise, Indian mission operators discovered that the spacecraft still had over 100 kg of unused propellant after a month of flying in this orbit. This unexpected surplus provided an exciting opportunity for additional maneuvers.
Taking advantage of the surplus propellant, ISRO decided to gather additional information for future lunar missions and demonstrate mission operation strategies for a sample return mission. As part of this endeavor, on October 9, the propulsion module raised its lunar orbit to an impressive 5,112 km. Just four days later, it started exiting lunar orbit and eventually entered a new orbit around Earth, reaching its first perigee on November 22.
One crucial advantage of the high Earth orbit of the propulsion module is that it poses no threat to operational satellites. Furthermore, this orbit allows the SHAPE payload to continue observing Earth’s atmosphere, ensuring the continuation of essential scientific observations.
While ISRO has not yet officially declared India’s future plans for further lunar missions beyond the Lunar Polar Exploration Mission with the Japanese space agency, JAXA, exciting prospects lie ahead. With its advanced deep-space exploration program, India currently ranks third globally, only behind NASA and China. Notably, India successfully placed a spacecraft into orbit around Mars in 2014, and it achieved the successful landing of its Vikram lander on the Moon in December.
With an impressive track record and an unwavering commitment to space exploration, India’s space agency remains dedicated to pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery through its Chandrayaan program. The return of the propulsion module to a high Earth orbit marks another milestone in India’s journey towards unlocking the mysteries of the Moon and beyond.
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