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How NASA and ESA are helping ISRO with Chandrayaan-3’s moon landing

Since Chandrayaan-3 took off on July 14, the folks at NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been lending a hand to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to watch how the spacecraft is doing up in space.

Now that Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram Lander module is counting down its hours to land on the Moon, the assistance that NASA and ESA will give ISRO will change a little.

How NASA and ESA helped till now
ESA has supported ISRO through its nifty ‘Estrack’ network of supercharged deep space stations. They’re in for the long haul, helping with tracking, giving orders, and catching data from Chandrayaan 3. All the action’s coordinated from ESA’s ESOC mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany.

When Chandrayaan 3 first took off, ESA’s 15-meter antenna in Kourou, French Guiana, had its eyes on it. This was to confirm that the spacecraft made a successful leap into space and was doing OK.

As the spacecraft headed further from our blue planet, ESA started tracking ISRO’s mission from the Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd’s 32-meter antenna in the UK. This bit was crucial because it helped them closely watch Chandrayaan-3’s propulsion and lander modules.

What’s neat is that this is a tag-team effort involving ESA’s European stations, NASA’s Deep Space Network, and ISRO’s stations. This added up to keep the spacecraft’s operators in the loop 24/7. They ensured this lunar adventure stayed on track, and ISRO was in touch with Chandrayaan-3.

Changing roles
Ramesh Chellathurai, who works on ground operations at ESOC Darmstadt in Germany, explained how ESA has been all hands on deck for this mission. They also help with sending commands from Bengaluru to the satellite itself.

Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram Lander aims to gracefully touch down on the lunar surface on August 23. The help from these ground stations is going to be super crucial.

The ESA isn’t messing around, either. They’ve got a 35-meter deep space antenna in Australia, specifically New Norcia, that’s all set to track and keep ISRO in touch with the Lander Module while it’s making its way down to the Moon’s surface.

This antenna isn’t just a backup; it’s like the wingman of ISRO’s ground station. They will both be collecting data about the Lander Module’s condition, location and how it’s moving. All this data will be used to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to the landing mission. If all goes well, the Pragyaan Rover’s data will pass through the Lander Module to these ground stations, and from there, it’ll make its way to the Mission Operations Centre in Bengaluru.

And NASA’s Deep Space Network, using its antennas at different locations, is taking care of Chandrayaan-3’s telemetry and tracking as it gracefully descends. They’re not only catching signals about the spacecraft’s health and performance, but they’re also listening to the radio signals and looking out for Doppler Effect, a crucial navigation tool used during landing.

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