As the countdown for Chandrayaan-3, India’s third lunar exploration mission began around 1.05 pm on Thursday, July 13, more than 17,000 employees of the Indian Space Research Organisation waited eagerly with bated breath and nervous anticipation.

Chandrayaan-3 is the third instalment of the Chandrayaan series and India’s second attempt to achieve a soft landing on the moon’s surface.

Only three countries (United States, Russia and China) have successfully landed spacecraft on the airless lunar surface.

Before the countdown began, Dr S Somanath, ISRO chairman, and several key scientists visited the Tirupati Venkatachalapathy temple with a miniature model of Chandrayaan-3, to pray for the mission’s success.

Here is a low-down of some of the key names behind the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

S Somanath, ISRO Chairman

S Somanath is considered one of the brains behind India’s ambitious moon mission.

In the past, he has served as the director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre — the primary centres for development of rocket technologies for the space agency.

Since he took charge, crucial missions like Chandrayaan-3, Aditya-L1 (sun mission), and Gaganyaan have gained momentum.

P Veeramuthuvel, Project Director, Chandrayaan-3

P Veeramuthuvel took charge as the Chandrayaan-3 project director in 2019.

Before his current assignment, he served as a deputy director in the space infrastructure programme office at the Isro headquarters.

Known for his technical acumen, Veeramuthuvel played a key role in the Chandrayaan-2 mission as well, being the point person for its negotiations with National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

A native of Villupuram in Tamil Nadu, Veeramuthuvel is an alumni of Indian Institute of Technology-Madras.

S Unnikrishnan Nair, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III — which was renamed the Launch Vehicle Mark-III — rocket, was developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) at Thumba in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram district.

Being the head of VSSC, S Unnikrishnan Nair and his team are in charge of various key functions of the crucial mission.

A Rajarajan, chairman, Launch Authorisation Board

A Rajarajan is a distinguished scientist and currently director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, India’s principal spaceport.

Rajarajan is an expert in the area of composites.

As the director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, his priorities was on the fruition of solid motor production and launch complex infrastructure to meet ISRO’s increased demand of launches including launches for the human space programme (Gaganyaan) and the SSLV.

The Launch Authorisation Board gives the go-ahead for the launch.

M Sankaran, Director, U R Rao Satellite Centre

M Sankaran took over as Director of the U R Rao Satellite Centre, the lead centre in India for design, development and realisation of all ISRO satellites in June 2021.

He currently leads the satellite fraternity to meet the national requirements in the areas like communication, navigation, remote sensing, meteorology and inter-planetary exploration.

Other officials

Other key officials of the mission include a team led by Mission Director Mohan Kumar, who looks into the operational aspects of Chandrayaan-3, and Vehicle director Biju C Thomas.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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