Just days after achieving the monumental feat of landing on the Moon, India is already setting its sights skyward again, this time aiming for the Sun. The nation’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), is planning to launch its first mission to study the Sun on September 2. Dubbed Aditya-L1, named after the Hindu sun god Aditya, the mission aims to deepen our understanding of solar activity and its impact on space weather and Earth.
Slated to launch at 2:20 a.m. ET (or 11:50 p.m. local time) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, the mission will hitch a ride aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. Aditya-L1’s ultimate destination is the Earth-Sun Lagrange Point 1 (L1), a point in space about 1 million miles away from Earth where the gravitational forces of the Sun and Earth balance each other out. According to ISRO, parking a satellite in a halo orbit around L1 offers the unique advantage of a continuous, unobstructed view of the Sun, allowing for more consistent data collection.
So, what exactly will Aditya-L1 be doing up there? The spacecraft comes equipped with seven specialized scientific instruments. Four of these will be pointed straight at the Sun to study various aspects of solar activity, like solar flares and sunspots. The remaining three instruments will focus on measuring particles at the L1 point, giving scientists valuable insights into how solar activities influence the space between planets, known as the interplanetary medium.
The excitement for this upcoming Sun mission is running especially high given ISRO’s recent Moon landing. On August 23, the Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully achieved a soft landing on the lunar south pole. With this accomplishment, India joined an elite club of countries that have managed to land on the Moon—only the Soviet Union, the United States, and China had done it before. Plus, Chandrayaan-3 marked the first landing on the Moon’s south pole, opening new avenues for lunar exploration.
India’s space ambitions don’t stop at the Moon or the Sun. The country recently joined hands with NASA by signing onto the Artemis Accords, a move that paves the way for increased collaboration in lunar exploration, including the ambitious plans to establish a sustainable habitat on the Moon. Moreover, ISRO has its eyes set on other intriguing destinations in our solar system, with preliminary plans for missions to Mars and Venus.
So, as the clock counts down to the Aditya-L1 launch, it’s clear that India is making significant strides in its space program, aiming to unravel the mysteries of our universe one celestial body at a time. Whether it’s the Moon’s craters or the Sun’s fiery corona, India is fast becoming a key player in the next chapter of space exploration.