Chandrayaan 3 Mission Launch Date is Approaching
As part of an ongoing series of standard space simulating tests, India’s Chandrayaan 3 Moon lander successfully completed its launch survival testing early March. This test checks in a special acoustic chamber if the spacecraft structure can withstand the intense, sustained sounds and vibrations of its rocket launch. At the 4th Indian Planetary Science Conference (IPSC) last month, ISRO Chief S. Somanath said that the agency is targeting Chandrayaan 3’s launch by July.
Somanath added that the joint Indo-Japanese LUPEX Moon mission will launch in the 2026–2028 timeframe. The mission’s ISRO-developed lander will deliver JAXA’s ~350-kilogram, drill-capable rover to the Moon’s south pole to study water ice. LUPEX, similarly to NASA’s VIPER rover, aims to help scientists unravel the physical and chemical nature of the Moon’s water ice deposits, assess their resource potential, and determine how accessible they really are to help us plan future crewed missions.
ISRO organized a workshop on March 28–29 to train students and researchers on lunar science and data analysis, especially for the expected in-situ measurements from the instruments on the Chandrayaan 3 lander and rover respectively.
Rishitosh Sinha from the Physical Research Laboratory said in his IPSC talk that Chandrayaan 3’s alternate landing site is at 69.49° S, 17.33° W. Also see: Chandrayaan 3’s primary landing site
Indian Space Program and Artemis
In an interview with Interstellar News, ISRO Chief S. Somanath said that the agency has submitted an internal report to the Indian government regarding possible stances the country could take on the US-led Artemis Accords. However, Somanath also mentioned that “signing the Accords is a prerequisite for participating in Artemis.” This, in the eyes of his team, complicates the decision-making process for India to collaborate on Artemis lunar missions. But said condition may not be true, or is at least murky, because Marcia Smith reported in December 2022 that the U.S. is pushing for broad international acceptance of the Accords independent of a nation’s desire to collaborate with NASA on Artemis itself.
Relatedly, a talk during the 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference last month demonstrates such a collaborative end. Wes Patterson described how his team is using complementary radar data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and ISRO’s Chandrayaan 2 orbiter to uniquely characterize the 13 candidate lunar south polar landing zones for NASA’s historic return of humans to our Moon with Artemis III by mid-decade. The output from this work includes getting valuable information on landing hazards within those sites, better access to their permanently shadowed regions than optical imagers for lunar water-related mission goals, and gaining a broad sense of the physical states of the regions from inferred physical properties. It effectively illustrates how a NASA-ISRO collaboration for Artemis represents an untapped opportunity.