We’ll soon learn if India will be the first nation to nail a soft landing on the moon’s south pole. The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-3 mission, which launched on July 14th and entered lunar orbit on August 5th, will attempt to touch down on Wednesday at around 8:34AM EDT. It follows Russia’s attempt to beat India to the punch that ended badly. The ISRO’s live telecast (watch below) is scheduled to begin at 3:50AM EDT.
The Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander will try to touch down near the Moon’s south pole, which is believed to contain water ice. It could provide crucial water, oxygen and fuel for future lunar missions and bases. However, touching down could prove challenging as the region is known for rugged terrain and shadowy craters. This mission’s immediate predecessor, the Chandrayaan-2, crashed in 2019 as it descended to the lunar south pole.
Chandrayaan-3 uses a “failure-based design” to incorporate lessons from the 2019 “hard landing.” The new version includes an expanded landing area, software upgrades and more redundant systems to back up potential outages.
The IRSO’s X (formerly Twitter) account posted early Tuesday morning, “The mission is on schedule. Systems are undergoing regular checks. Smooth sailing is continuing.” It also posted pictures of the Moon’s surface taken from orbit.
You can tune in here early Wednesday morning (US time) to view the Indian lander’s descent.