How Artificial Intelligence Facilitated the Success of Chandrayaan 3

Posted By : Arpita Pal | 12-Sep-2023

On 23rd August, 2023, Chandyrayaan 3's victorious soft landing on the Moon's south pole created history, as India became the first nation to achieve this feat. It also became the fourth country in the world to achieve a successful landing on the Moon. Learning from previous shortcomings in Chandrayaan 2's unsuccessful soft landing, ISRO scientists left no stone unturned to ensure that the spacecraft was fully decked with capable technologies that would guarantee the landing's success. The project consisted of a propulsion module, a lunar rover named Pragyan and a lunar lander named Vikram, and as a whole, this was the third project in the Chandrayaan Mission. 


Chandrayaan 3


The main reason behind the failure of Chandrayaan 2's descent was a software glitch and the number of engines employed that hindered the reduction of velocity required to slow down its pace during its descent. Learning from previous errors, for Chandrayaan 3, scientists utilized artificial intelligence models and highly efficient cameras which included inertia-based and hazard avoidance cameras. These aided in combating numerous challenges starting from the onset of the launch to the terminal landing, such as ejecting thrusters, autonomous navigation, scaling troublesome terrains and harsh weather conditions, and scientific exploration of the lunar surface. The algorithms were also further employed beyond the point of landing, as they were utilized for deep-scale analysis and scientific experiments of atmospheric and geological information which the rover gathered in its 14-day mission. This mission was made possible with collaboration from the European Space Tracking Network (ESTRACK) operated by the European Space Agency. It was also in collaboration with the Deep Space Network from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). 


The focus of Chandrayaan 3's mission has been strongly on the Moon's south pole due to its potential to discover the presence of ice on the lunar surface. The presence of ice is considered revolutionary as it can potentially become a source of fuel as hydrogen and provide as a reserve for drinking water for future space exploration missions. Moreover, it could present a useful insight into the evolutionary past of the Moon, Earth and more.


Built on the concept of ‘failure-based-design’, Chandrayaan 3 aimed to eliminate any possibility of failures by testing it in all potential scenarios and integrating measures to protect itself in such situations. The reasons for such strong measures were to counter the difficult situations the Moon presented to the spacecraft, such as fine dust, lack of visibility, reduced gravity and highly unpredictable terrains. 


What was the objective of Chandrayaan 3's Mission?


1. Achieve a precise soft landing for the lander on the south pole of the Moon.

2. Showcase the dynamic abilities of Pragyan the rover to successfully scale the uneven terrains of the lunar surface.

3. Conduct elaborate scientific experiments and deep analysis of the materials and images gathered by the Pragyan rover.


Journey of Chandrayaan 3 to the Moon


On 14th July, 2023 the mission was set in its course as Chandrayaan 3 took off in LVM3-M4 rocket, from Satish Dhawan Space Centre Second Launch  Pad based in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. After its launch, the spacecraft entered the orbit of the Moon, which was placed with the help of ISRO performing lunar orbit insertion. Later, the lander separated from the propulsion module on 17th August, 2023 to begin its stage of starting its descent on the Moon.


It finally achieved its objective of a slow landing on the Moon's surface on 23rd August, 2023. As it approached the lunar surface, it performed multiple manoeuvers and utilized its engines and thrusters to stabilize itself to optimally decent to the surface. Once the lander completed its touchdown, it initiated the deployment of the Pragyan rover to start its objective of navigation, exploration and analyzing the lunar surface in its 14-day period mission. Its previous project, the Chandrayaan 2 served as a backup relay for the current Chandrayan 3 units. With the aid of its high-resolution camera, the rover started sharing its findings with ISRO, with the first video showcasing its exit from the lander and leaving for the Moon's surface. Its mounted solar panels allowed it to have full energy for exploration by fully facing the panels towards the sun.


Components and Technologies Utilized in Chandrayaan 3


a) The Propulsion Module: Embedded with a solar panel for resource sufficiency, it was a box-shaped structure built for the purpose of carrying the lander (Vikram) and the rover (Pragyan) for a 100 km journey of the lunar orbit. It also consisted a cylindrical mounting structure for the lander (Intermodular Adapter Cone). It had a Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planetary Earth (SHAPE) payload, meant for studying spectral and polari metric measurements of Earth from the orbit of the Moon. Its main role was to carry the lander module from launch vehicle injection to final lunar polar orbit and separate the lander module from the propulsion module. After separating from the lander, it will stay in space in the Moon's orbit to facilitate communication and network with the Earth. 


b) Lander (Vikram): It was also a box-shaped structure with four landing legs having four landing thrusters capable of generating 800 newtons with each thrust. Equipped with Laser Doppler Velocimeter (LDV), the lander was able to measure altitude in multiple directions. Lander payloads consisted of Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiments (ChaSTE) to measure temperature and thermal conductivity. To calculate the seismic activity near the landing site, it had Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA),  Langmuir Probe for measuring plasma densities and their possible variations and NASA's Laser Reteroreflector Array for studies relating to lunar lasers. ISRO also enhanced the structure, data transmission and frequency and overall features to increase survivability.  


c) Rover (Pragyan): Weighing 26 kilograms, it was expected to gather detailed measurements of the lunar surface to find the presence of water, previous impacts due to historical collisions etc., The rover payloads consisted of Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope for finding the basic composition of elements in the area of the landing site.


Artificial Intelligence Technologies Employed in Chandrayaan 3


1) Automated Navigation: For enhancing the accuracy and performance of Chandrayaan 3, multiple artificial intelligence sensors were installed in the form of velocimeters, altimeters and more to remove any possibilities of faulty detection in cases of landing and movement. With the help of technologies like the Laser Doppler Velocimeter, it was able to detect altitudes in ways up to 3 directions which assisted in its successful and accurate descent. By utilizing machine learning and deep learning techniques, ISRO scientists employed automated navigation techniques to ensure precise movement for safely maneuvering the rover to combat unpredictable conditions and terrains maintaining longevity. As the lunar surface is highly inconsistent and full of craters, AI algorithms ensured accurate detection of obstacles in no visibility areas while gathering and analyzing materials from the surface of the Moon to formulate essential data.


2) Data Analysis: During its mission period, the Pragyan rover collected various kinds of data including geographical, spectroscopic, atmospherical and mineralistic composition of the lunar surface. Deep analysis of these data will enable essential discoveries regarding the surface's composition and atmosphere and propel a deeper understanding of the Moon's history for future ISRO missions. Also, the results will greatly assist in predicting and detecting potential hazards such as dangerous space weather conditions like solar flares, storms etc.


3) Enhanced Durability: Artificial intelligence algorithms helped to prevent potential failures in the systems through constant self-checkups based on machine learning. Previously in Chandrayaan 2's mission, its failure was due to software glitches causing unintended extra velocity from its thrusters and hence, its deviation from its intended trajectory. But this time with Chandrayan 3, the AI sensor models were able to self-regulate the velocity and the location using high-resolution pictures from Chandrayaan 2's orbiters High-Resolution Camera (oHRC). They were designed to hold up even in cases of loss of network connectivity. This ensured a precision-based landing for an optimal descent with added stability. 


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Findings Shared by Chandrayaan 3


1) Presence of Multiple Elements such as Sulfur and more: The Pragyan rover confirmed the presence of Sulfur near the south pole of the lunar surface on 30th August, 2023 with the help of laser-induced breakdown spectroscope, as reported by ISRO. Other elements such as aluminum (Al), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), chromium (Cr), titanium (Ti), manganese (Mn), silicon (Si) and oxygen (O) were also detected near its south pole by the rover. The search for hydrogen (H) was also conducted in its 14-day mission period. The Pragyan rover conducted an in-situ chemical analysis of the Moon's surface with maximum efforts to make up for the limited days in its 2 week period of activity. 


2) Temperature Variations in Lunar Surface: ISRO reported that with the help of one of its integrated instruments named ChaSTE (Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiment), huge variations in temperature were found below and above the surface of the Moon. Showcasing poor heat conductivity and insulation, the temperatures were found to be above 50 degrees Celsius or 122 degrees Fahrenheit above the Moon's surface. Whereas, temperatures dropped sharply up to -10 degrees Celsius or 14 degrees Fahrenheit 14 millimeters below the surface. These high variations were found to be consistent with previous knowledge but it was discovered with direct observation for the first time.


3) Seismic and Plasma Measurements: As per ISRO, the RAMBHA instrument in the Vikram lander released information on 31st August, 2023 about low plasma densities above the Moon's surface which were consistent with the early stages of a lunar day. It also provided vibration measurements of the rover movement on 25th August, 2023 from the ILSA payload which displayed the possibility of a natural event on 26th August, 2023. 




Chandrayaan 3's success showcased the prowess of India's advancement in space exploration in the world by achieving an optimal landing on the Moon and demonstrating the dynamic qualities of the Pragyan rover in exploring, experimenting and analyzing the various elements of the lunar surface. This historic feat on 23rd August, 2023 was declared as National Space Day in India. Learning from the errors in Chandrayaan 2, scientists were able to employ cutting-edge artificial intelligence technologies which helped in enhancing the overall precision in navigation, self-maintenance of the devices and deep analysis of the Moon's surface. These strong capabilities of artificial intelligence have ensured its definitive place in future space missions which will be conducted by ISRO. AI has the ability to self-learn and constantly reinvent itself to bring itself closest to its intended purpose. This ability ensures diverse applications ranging from successfully running a business to ensuring success in space exploration missions. AI can also help to transform your business and extend its capabilities which will guarantee streamlined operations and profitability for your company. If you're looking for solutions in AI services to enhance your operational efficiency, we would love to support your journey. Drop us a query and we will get back to you in 24 hours.

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Arpita Pal

Arpita brings her exceptional skills as a Content Writer to the table, backed by a wealth of knowledge in the field. She possesses a specialized proficiency across a range of domains, encompassing Press Releases, content for News sites, SEO, and crafting website content. Drawing from her extensive background in content marketing, Arpita is ideally positioned for her role as a content strategist. In this capacity, she undertakes the creation of engaging Social media posts and meticulously researched blog entries, which collectively contribute to forging a unique brand identity. Collaborating seamlessly with her team members, she harnesses her cooperative abilities to bolster overall client growth and development.

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