India's Chandrayaan-3 snaps close-up photos of moon ahead of landing try (video)

India's Chandrayaan-3 probe has captured more amazing imagery of the moon ahead of its historic touchdown try, which is just a few days away.

Chandrayaan-3 launched on July 14, on a mission to pull off India's first-ever successful lunar landing. The lander-rover duo has been checking its boxes on schedule so far; it entered lunar orbit on Aug. 5 and separated from its propulsion module yesterday (Aug. 17).

The probe has been taking lots of photos along the way, recording such milestone moments for posterity. For example, Chandrayaan-3 snapped a shot of its newly free-flying propulsion module yesterday, which the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) shared today (Aug. 18) via X (formerly Twitter).

Related: Chandrayaan-3: A guide to India's third mission to the moon

The moon's surface, as seen by India's Chandrayaan-3 probe from lunar orbit on Aug. 17, 2023. (Image credit: ISRO)

That X post features a 31-second video, which stitches together a number of images captured yesterday by Chandrayaan-3's landing module. Most of those photos show the lunar surface; ISRO labels a few of the many craters passing underneath the probe, including Fabry and Giordano Bruno.

ISRO shared yet more Chandrayaan-3 moon imagery in another X post today. That one featured a 17-second video consisting of photos the probe snapped on Tuesday (Aug. 15). 

Such reconnaissance is part of the prep work for Chandrayaan-3's landing attempt, which will occur Aug. 23 or Aug. 24 near the lunar south pole. Success would be huge for India; to date, the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China are the only nations ever to have soft-landed a probe on the moon

And no craft has ever set down near the lunar south pole, a region thought to be rich in water ice that could sustain human settlement. (Russia may beat Chandrayaan-3 to that punch, however; Russia's Luna-25 probe is scheduled to land near the south pole in the coming days, perhaps as early as Aug. 21.)

Chandrayaan-3 has a budget of 6 billion rupees (about $72 million at current exchange rates). The mission features a lander named Vikram, which carries a small rover called Pragyan. 

If all goes according to plan, the robotic duo will explore their exotic environs for one lunar day (roughly 14 Earth days) after touching down. They'll gather a variety of data before the cold, dark lunar night turns out their lights.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.