Good luck, Chandrayaan 3. Good luck also to all the journalists covering this event from within India – a unique location because it’s where you will feel the most excitement today about the mission’s activities on the moon as well as the most difficult path to accessing bona fide information about them (thanks to the misinformation, sensationalism, and ISRO’s and the Indian government’s tendency to stop sharing information rather than more of it when something goes awry). So, I hope your memories serve you well and every detail that you recall is completely factual.
India is also a unique location because it’s going to the moon today. I’ve always felt somewhat uncomfortable with the idea that humans have gone to the moon. Whether you’re human or an alien to whom human geopolitics is trivial in the scheme of things, humans never went to the moon. People did. And people are divided along very many lines. Cooperation has come and gone, to the extent that there’s still considerable value for some country to have successfully executed its own moon-landing mission (robotic or otherwise). This is a bit of a tragedy given we’re all in this together and all that, but at the same time it would be naïve to believe otherwise.
And today, India will be taking its best shot at having a robotic lander autonomously soft-land on the lunar surface. I encourage you to follow the landing sequence on DD National (on TV), on YouTube livestreams of ISRO or the Press Information Bureau, or on a live blog on The Hindu (with real-time updates and analysis). Two hours before the lander’s powered descent – the label for the landing – is set to begin at 5.45 pm, ISRO will check whether all conditions are favourable to go ahead. If they are, the livestream will begin at 5.20 pm and the descent is expected to last around 19 minutes. If you’re new to all this, please check out The Hindu today for a full-page graphic on what to expect.