15 minutes of terror: How ISRO plans glitch-free landing at 6:04 pm

The final descent will commence from an altitude of 25 km at 5:45 pm

NEW DELHI | Updated: 23 August, 2023 1:14 pm IST

NEW DELHI: India is waiting with bated breath as its space agency ISRO’s ambitious Chandrayaan-3 lander module gears up to make history by soft-landing on the lunar surface at 6.04 pm on Wednesday.

Vikram, the lander, along with the rover Pragyan, is poised to touch down near the Moon’s south pole, marking India as the fourth country to achieve this remarkable feat.

ISRO is monitoring Chandrayaan-3 continuously.


Mixed feelings of excitement and uneasiness prevail in the ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru as engineers and scientists check and cross-verify crucial data and the status of different parts of the lander module.

Uneasiness stems from the fact that except for one, all lunar touch-down missions between 2019 and 2023 have failed – Russia’s Luna 25 being the latest case.

Once Vikram lands safely, rover Pragyan will come out of its belly and embark on a 14 Earth days exploration mission, venturing into groundbreaking experiments utilizing its cutting-edge payloads RAMBHA and ILSA. These experiments are meticulously designed to unravel mysteries surrounding the moon’s atmosphere and mineral composition.

Vikram is also equipped with the innovative Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), which will meticulously analyze the chemical constituents of the lunar terrain, including its surface, rocks, and soil.

Chandrayaan-3’s journey in a glance:

July 14: Mission launch

July 15-25: Earth’s orbit maneuvering

August 1-5: Lunar orbit insertion and separation from propulsion module

August 6-16: Lunar orbit lowering maneuvers

August 17: Lander separation from propulsion module

August 23: Powered descent initiation at 5:45 pm, followed by the historic touchdown at 6:04 pm

The final and most critical phase of powered descent has been described as “fifteen minutes of terror” by former ISRO chairman K Sivan.

Vikram will take approximately 19 minutes to make the touch down from an altitude of 25 km in the power-descent, which commences at 5:45 pm. When it reaches a height of 150 meter, its specially-designed cameras will check for trenches or hilly areas.

In preparation for the momentous landing, ISRO has announced a live telecast of the process commencing at 5:20 pm on Wednesday. The ISRO has confirmed that the mission remains on track, with regular system checks and procedures. The Mission Operations Complex (MOX) is buzzing with enthusiasm and energy, ensuring all systems are ready for the crucial descent.

The journey leading to this landmark event has seen Chandrayaan-3’s lander module meticulously search for the optimal landing site following a series of orbiting and deboosting maneuvers around the Moon. An engaging development was a two-way communication link established between Chandrayaan-3’s Lander Module and Chandrayaan-2’s Orbiter on Monday. This liaison broadens the pathways for communication, showcasing the advanced capabilities of ISRO’s technology.

The landing attempt comes in wake of Luna-25 craft melting down after encountering trouble during its pre-landing orbit maneuver.

ISRO scientists have announced that they will postpone the landing for August 27 if conditions are not favourable for the landing.

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