The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-3 mission lifted off on Friday, to the delight of a large crowd gathered in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. Here are five facts about the spacecraft that you may not have known about it while it travels around the Earth in orbit.

1. Upgrades of Chandrayaan-3 over its predecessor

The Chandrayaan-3 project is nearly identical to the Chandrayaan-2 mission, which ended in failure when the Vikram lander crashed landed on the Moon’s surface during its final legs. However, there are several significant new improvements that ISRO hopes will give the current mission an advantage over its predecessor.

This contains improvements to the lander, such as a larger fuel tank, solar panels on all four sides rather than just two, new navigation equipment, updated software, further strength testing, and other features.

2. ISRO requires the ability to land on soft soil.

ISRO has more than proven its worth with numerous successful missions over the last two decades. However, there is one technological capacity that it need in order to compete with the “big boys” of space exploration—the ability to soft-land on the Moon.

The failure of Chandrayaan-2 hung around ISRO’s neck like an albatross. If it can’t land a craft on the Moon, it can’t investigate its surface, hunting for precious minerals and trying to figure out how the solar system came to be. The agency needs to prove that it is capable of landing a craft on the Moon before it can move on to its bigger ambitions, including future crewed missions to space.

3. Wind tunnel trials in Bengaluru

LVM3 (Launch Vehicle Mark-III), which launched the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft into Earth orbit, underwent over 3,000 wind tunnel tests at Bengaluru’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Aerospace Laboratories (CSIR-NAL). These tests assisted mission scientists in learning more about the rocket’s aerodynamics and how air will flow around it while in flight.

4. What happened to become Sriharikota India’s launchpad?

The Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota is the country’s only spaceport that can launch both satellites and spacecraft. But why was Sriharikota chosen to host the centre?

One major factor in its benefit is its location on the eastern shore, which makes it easier to launch rockets to the east. Rockets are often launched in the east because the rotation of the Earth provides a boost of momentum. Another major consideration is its proximity to the equator. Rockets launched from the equator can make the most of the Earth’s rotation.

Of course, other considerations like the fact that Sriharikota was a sparsely populated region close to the sea also played into this decision.

5. Why ISRO Wants to Visit the Moon’s South Pole

So date, all spacecraft that have landed on the Moon have done so near the Moon’s equator. This is due to the more favourable topography and circumstances there. The polar areas make carrying out lunar missions considerably more challenging.

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