Chandrayaan-3: India’s Leap Toward Lunar Exploration and the Quest for Helium-3 Energy

India’s lunar aspirations are closer to fruition as Chandrayaan-3 progresses steadily, aiming for a landing on the moon’s southern pole on August 23rd.

The former Chief Controller (R&D) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Apathukatha Sivathanu Pillai, expressed confidence in the mission’s trajectory. Speaking to ANI, he remarked, ” Having transitioned from a near 100 km orbit to 30 km, the descent to the moon is underway. I am confident it will achieve complete success.”

Pillai, who also helmed BrahMos Aerospace, underscored the mission’s importance, pointing to its role in detecting lunar resources, notably Helium-3 – a potential future energy source. With this endeavor, India is poised to become the fourth nation, after the United States, Russia, and China, to achieve a soft lunar landing.

Helium-3 has gained attention as a prospective fuel for nuclear fusion, the process that fuels stars like our sun. If tapped on Earth, fusion could offer a vast, eco-friendly energy source without the radioactive byproducts typical of current nuclear fission. Unlike standard fusion methods involving hydrogen isotopes, fusing helium-3 with deuterium would generate largely non-radioactive results. This fusion releases a significant energy burst, which might be converted directly into power.

Yet, functional fusion reactors, even those centered on Helium-3, remain experimental, grappling with myriad technical obstacles. While helium-3 offers hope for a greener, efficient energy matrix, its earthly application remains constrained by technology and economics.

Given helium-3’s potential, moon mining conversations have surged due to the moon’s rich helium-3 reserves from solar wind exposure. Hence, missions like Chandrayaan-3 have garnered attention as potential gateways to next-generation energy solutions.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that the Vikram Lander Module successfully undertook a deboosting procedure, achieving an orbit of 113 km x 157 km.

Launched on July 14, 2023, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre using the GSLV Mark 3 launch vehicle, Chandrayaan-3 overcame pandemic-induced delays and is nearing its mission objectives.

ISRO added, ” The next deboosting operation is scheduled for August 20, 2023, where the lander will reach an orbit with its closest point to the moon (Perilune) at 30 km and the farthest point (the Apolune) at 100 km.”
Chandrayaan-3’s objectives span a successful landing, lunar surface rover exploration, and on-site scientific experiments.

Tracing back, India’s lunar exploration began with Chandrayaan-1 in 2009, delivering significant findings. Though Chandrayaan-2 in 2019 faced landing challenges, it still provided essential data, including evidence of water ice on the moon.

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