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Chandrayaan-3: How AI helped India create history by landing on the moon

ISRO used AI-enabled software to initiate a systematic descent of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the surface of the moon.

Edited By: Shubham Verma

Published: Aug 23, 2023, 10:31 PM IST

Chandrayaan-3 descended safely to land on the moon using AI
Chandrayaan-3 descended safely to land on the moon using AI

Story Highlights

  • ISRO used Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the launch of the Chandrayaan-3.
  • The major role AI played in the landing of the Chandrayaan-3 was during the descent.
  • AI will also help ISRO in analysing data collected by the Pragyan Rover that was onboard the Chandrayaan-3.

India on Wednesday became the first nation to reach the moon’s south pole as the ambitious Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft landed successfully on the surface of the earth’s satellite per the schedule. After a landing sequence that lasted about 15 minutes, Vikram Lander touched the moon’s surface, putting the country on the map of countries that are now present on the moon. At play were several technologies that made the mission successful, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) played a crucial role in the wee hours of the landing. The descent of the lander was entirely controlled using AI, making it one of the latest achievements in the field.

The descent, which began at 5.45 pm on August 23, Wednesday, was managed by AI software that used instruments like velocimeters and altimeters to calculate the speed and position of the lander above the surface of the moon. The AI-enabled software used the cameras on the orbiter and the lander to detect potential landing sites. These cameras are the Lander Position Detection Camera (LPDC) and the Lander Hazard Detection & Avoidance Camera (LHDAC).

A part of the descent involved changing the orientation of the Vikram Lander from horizontal to vertical for a smooth landing. According to ISRO chairman S Somnath, this was one of the most complicated stages of the landing sequence. India’s last moon lander Chandrayaan-2 ran into some problems, which is why the space agency took the help of AI to ensure the perfect switch to the orientation. A dedicated team trained the AI software through various simulations that allowed it to change Vikram Lander’s orientation from horizontal to vertical during the last stages of the descent. With the help of the Lander Horizontal Velocity Camera (LHVC), AI managed to change the orientation of the lander by tilting it at 90 degrees.

Using the learnings from the last attempt, ISRO was wise enough not to rely entirely on AI and made the lander foolproof by all means. The spacecraft features additional sensors to ensure safety even if AI fails to sense the surroundings to prompt the orientation switch.

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Author Name | Shubham Verma


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