India sets sights on solar exploration following successful Moon landing

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Just days after achieving the historic feat of landing a spacecraft near the Moon’s mostly uncharted south pole, India’s space agency announced its intention to launch a satellite to study the Sun.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) revealed on Monday that the launch of Aditya-L1, India’s maiden space-based solar observatory, is scheduled for September 2. Aditya, which means “sun” in Hindi, will be placed into a halo orbit positioned around 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth, offering a consistent, unobstructed view of the Sun.

This unique vantage point will enhance the ability to observe solar activities and their impact on space weather in real-time, ISRO stated. Aditya-L1 will carry seven payloads designed to analyze the Sun’s outermost layers, including the photosphere and chromosphere. The observatory will employ electromagnetic and particle field detectors for this purpose.

One of the mission’s objectives is to investigate the factors driving space weather and gain a deeper comprehension of solar wind dynamics. While agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have previously deployed orbiters to study the Sun, this will be India’s inaugural solar research mission.

Last week, the unmanned Chandrayaan-3, aptly named “Mooncraft” in Sanskrit, successfully landed on the lunar surface. India became the fourth nation, after the United States, Russia, and China, to achieve a lunar landing. This accomplishment marked yet another significant advancement in India’s budget-conscious yet remarkable space program, leading to widespread celebrations across the country.

India’s space program is renowned for its cost-effectiveness, achieved through the adaptation of existing technology and the utilization of highly skilled engineers who earn considerably less than their international counterparts. Notably, India sent its first probe into lunar orbit in 2008, and in 2014, became the first Asian country to place a craft into Martian orbit. The nation is on track to launch a three-day crewed mission into Earth’s orbit next year, as well as planning collaborative missions with Japan for a Moon probe by 2025 and an orbital mission to Venus within the next two years.