The lander is due to reach the Moon on 23-24 August, space officials said. Representation image. Dinodia Photo/Gettyimages

India is preparing to launch its third Moon mission, with the goal of being the first country to land near the relatively unexplored south pole of the Moon. The mission, called Chandrayaan-3, consists of an orbiter, lander, and rover.

The scheduled launch is set to take place on Friday at 14:35 local time from the Sriharikota space center in India.

According to space officials, the lander is expected to reach the Moon between Aug. 23 and 24.

If successful, India will become the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, following the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China.

This mission represents India's ongoing efforts to advance its space exploration capabilities and contribute to lunar research.

Chandrayaan-3, India's third lunar exploration mission, aims to build upon the achievements of its earlier missions.

The first mission, Chandrayaan-1, conducted in 2008, successfully conducted a detailed search for water on the lunar surface and confirmed the presence of an atmosphere on the Moon during the daytime.

The project director of Chandrayaan-1, Mylswamy Annadurai, highlighted these accomplishments.

Chandrayaan-2, launched in July 2019, comprised an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. While the orbiter continues to orbit and study the Moon, the lander-rover was unable to achieve a soft landing and crashed during the touchdown due to a last-minute braking system glitch.

However, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief Sreedhara Panicker Somanath stated that they have carefully analyzed the data from the previous mission's crash and conducted simulation exercises to address the issues.

Chandrayaan-3, weighing 3,900kg and costing 6.1 billion rupees ($75 million; £58 million), shares the same objectives as its predecessor, aiming to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface.

The mission seeks to further enhance India's capabilities in lunar exploration and scientific research.

The lander (called Vikram, after the founder of Isro) weighs about 1,500kg and carries within its belly the 26kg rover which is named Pragyaan, the Sanskrit word for wisdom.

Following the launch on Friday, Chandrayaan-3 will take approximately 15 to 20 days to enter the Moon's orbit. Over the next few weeks, scientists will gradually decrease the rocket's velocity to enable a soft landing for the lander named Vikram.

If the mission proceeds as intended, the six-wheeled rover will then be deployed to explore the Moon's surface, navigating through rocks and craters.

The rover will collect vital data and capture images that will be transmitted back to Earth for analysis. This information will contribute to a deeper understanding of the Moon's geology and other scientific aspects.

"The rover is carrying five instruments which will focus on finding out about the physical characteristics of the surface of the Moon, the atmosphere close to the surface and the tectonic activity to study what goes on below the surface. I'm hoping we'll find something new," Somanath told Mirror Now.

"We have more scientific interest in this spot because the equatorial region, which is safe for landing, has already been reached and a lot of data is available for that," Somanath said.

"If we want to make a significant scientific discovery, we have to go to a new area such as the south pole, but it has higher risks of landing."

Somanath adds data from Chandrayaan-2 crash has been "collected and analysed" and it has helped fix all the errors in the latest mission.

"The orbiter from Chandrayaan-2 has been providing lots of very high-resolution images of the spot where we want to land and that data has been well studied so we know how many boulders and craters are there and we have widened the domain of landing for a better possibility."

According to Annadurai, the concept of the Moon mission was conceived in the early 2000s as an enticing project to attract talented individuals during the IT boom in India. At that time, many technology graduates were inclined to join the software industry, and the Moon mission provided an opportunity to engage their interest and encourage their participation in the field of space exploration.

"The success of Chandrayaan-1 helped on that count. The space programme became a matter of pride for India and it's now considered very prestigious to work for Isro."

But the larger goal of India's space programme, Annadurai says, "encompasses science and technology and the future of humanity," BBC reported.

India is not the only country with an eye on the Moon - there's a growing global interest in it. And scientists say there is still much to understand about the Moon that's often described as a gateway to deep space.

"If we want to develop the Moon as an outpost, a gateway to deep space, then we need to carry out many more explorations to see what sort of habitat would we be able to build there with the locally available material and how will we carry supplies to our people there," Annadurai says.

Indeed, India is not the only country with a growing interest in the Moon. There is a worldwide surge of enthusiasm for lunar exploration and research. The Moon holds significant scientific and exploratory value, often considered a gateway to deeper space exploration.

Scientists emphasize that there is still much to discover and comprehend about the Moon. Exploring its geological composition, studying its history, investigating the presence of water and other resources, and understanding its potential for supporting human missions are among the key areas of interest.

"So the ultimate goal for India's probes is that one day when the Moon - separated by 360,000km of space - will become an extended continent of Earth, we will not be a passive spectator, but have an active, protected life in that continent and we need to continue to work towards that."

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