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Secured India’s lunar soft-landing

Published: 23 August 2023

On 23 August, India was the fourth nation to land on the Moon, and the first nation ever to land on the lunar south pole, at the rim of the Shackleton crater. What is unknown to most of us, is that behind the complicated autonomous soft-landing of the lander, Chadrayaan-3, is the researcher Avijit Banerjee, who is now part of the research group in Robotics and AI at Luleå University of Technology.

The entire world could follow the anticipated and complicated feather-touch-like landing of the uncrewed lander Chandrayaan-3 on Wednesday 23 August. Until this date, only the United States, the Soviet Union and China have landed on the Moon. Luleå University of Technology followed the lunar landing with great interest. This is because Avijit Banerjee, since three years the leader of research specialisation in Space autonomy within the Robotics and AI group at Luleå University of Technology, plays a particularly important role here. During his time at the Indian Institute of Science, Aerospace Engineering Department, he developed the autonomous algorithm that is one factor determining the success of India's landing attempt. 

“Of course, I am very happy and proud that my solution for autonomous and safe soft-landing on the Moon has been implemented onboard the lander by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) team for the Indian Lunar exploration mission, Chandrayaan-3,’’ Avijit Banerjee says.

Lands in several phases

The powered autonomous landing of Chandrayaan-3 was divided into multiple intermediate phases to gradually reduce the lander's velocity while guiding it to the intended landing site at the south pole of the Moon. During the landing, the guidance algorithm formulated by Avijit Banerjee was managing the braking force required for the lander to reduce speed in a controlled manner. The big advantage of his guidance algorithm is that it enables a smooth landing trajectory by securing continuity of the guidance command between the intermediate phases. This method guarantees a gentle, feather-touch-like landing while aligning the lander in a vertical orientation at touchdown, which are crucial elements for ensuring a safe and thus successful landing.

Inside the lander, there is a rover that will explore the surface of the Moon near the south pole.

Space autonomy is the new challenge within space research, with the goal to support space missions of the next generation, and here, Luleå University of Technology is at the forefront.

Avijit Banerjee

Avijit Banerjee, Researcher

Organisation: Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, Signals and Systems, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering