India is about to try landing a robot on the moon’s south pole — a space feat that has stumped everyone who tried it so far.
If India succeeds, it will be the first nation to land on what’s thought to the most water rich region of the moon .
Whoever can mine that water-ice and break it down into oxygen and hydrogen, will then have the resources to lead future space exploration including building crewed bases on the moon and manufacturing rocket fuel for missions to Mars and beyond. Rush for the south pole of the moon , India’s space agency Indian Space Research Organisation is set to attempt a new landing on Wednesday.
The livestream of the landing attempt, below, begins at 7:50 a.m. Eastern Time. Touchdown is scheduled for 8:34 a.m. ET.
India, Russia, and Israel have all tried and failed
Russia is the latest nation to fumble a lunar south-pole landing.
During a maneuver to push itself into an orbit that would carry it to its descent, the Luna-25 spacecraft fired its engines for too long, Roscosmos reported.
The space agency lost contact on Saturday, and it was determined that the craft crashed into the Moon.
Luna-25 joins the wreckage of Israel’s Beresheet lander and India’s failed first attempt.
If first you don’t succeed try, try, again
The landing attempt scheduled for Wednesday will be India’s second try.
“I hope they’re successful,” Robert Braun, head of the Space Exploration Center at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, told Insider.
“That would be a pretty significant achievement,” he added.
ISRO sent its first spacecraft to the moon’s south pole in September 2019. The Chandrayaan-2 mission dropped a lander called Vikram toward the lunar surface.
On its descent, just 1. 3 miles above the moon’s surface, the Vikram lander diverged from its intended path and lost communication with operators on Earth.
Later, NASA’s lunar orbiter spotted the wreckage of Vikram on the moon below. India is trying again with this new mission, called Chandrayaan-3.
For any descent or landing, the sequence of hundreds of actions preprogrammed must be followed exactly for the spacecraft’s survival and functionality.
Because landing happens so quickly, there is no opportunity for operators on Earth to intervene. Vikram will operate on its own.
“Spaceflight is hard, and landing on another planetary surface is among the hardest things that we do in spaceflight. So it’s the hardest of the hard,” said Braun, who has worked on landing and descent teams for multiple NASA missions to Mars.
India has an additional challenge, as its lander’s size increases the possibility that it could tip over when it encounters a rock on the surface of the moon.
“I’m really interested to see what happens,” Braun said.