India’s spacecraft, which accomplished a historic moon landing, has successfully maneuvered back into Earth’s orbit. This significant move is part of India’s efforts to explore the possibility of returning samples of lunar soil to Earth in the future. Surprisingly, the propulsion module had more fuel left than initially anticipated, prompting researchers to bring it back toward home.
The propulsion module, resembling a large box with a solar panel and engine, played a crucial role in propelling the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s lunar lander to the moon. After reaching lunar orbit, the lander separated from the module and made a successful landing on the moon’s surface, marking India as the fourth country to achieve this feat.
For nearly two weeks, the lander and rover carried out various scientific experiments before entering sleep mode for the lunar night. Meanwhile, the propulsion module remained in lunar orbit, serving as a relay point and housing the SHAPE experiment, which aimed to study Earth from a lunar orbit perspective.
The module’s surplus propellant was an unexpected bonus, allowing researchers to gather additional data for future missions and potential sample return missions. This surplus propellant has proven to be highly valuable in expanding India’s knowledge of lunar exploration.
It is worth noting that India had previously tested a “hop” maneuver to lift the lander off the moon’s surface. Currently, the propulsion module is orbiting approximately 96,000 miles above Earth, completing one lap every 13 days.
During the module’s return to Earth’s orbit, precautions were taken to ensure it would not crash onto the moon’s surface or enter the geostationary orbit belt, which is populated by expensive satellites. These safety measures were essential to protect valuable assets in space and prevent any potential collisions.
India’s successful maneuver of the spacecraft’s propulsion module back into Earth’s orbit marks another milestone in the country’s space exploration journey. With the surplus fuel providing new opportunities for research and future missions, India continues to make significant advancements in the field of lunar exploration.