India has made the first step towards its most ambitious space exploration goal of making a lunar landing by successfully entering the Moon’s orbit with the Chandrayaan-2 mission.
Initially, the ISRO wanted to conduct the mission at an earlier date but was faced with technical difficulties that delayed the launch by a couple of days. Hence, Chandrayaan-2 launched from the Sriharikota space station on July 22 at 09:02 local time (04:32 GMT) on Tuesday.
Nonetheless, Chandrayaan-2 made its way to the Moon’s orbit, but according to Kailasavadivoo Sivan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the lunar insertion was complicated, which is why the maneuver took the orbiter around 30 minutes to accomplish.
Between now and then, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter spacecraft will circle the Moon for two weeks, as mission control adjusts its orbit to bring the vehicle closer to the Moon and orient it over the poles, and will communicate with the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu, Karnataka.
Furthermore, the orbiter weighs 2,379kg (5,244lb) and has a mission life of a year, will take images of the lunar surface, and it will be placed in a 100X100 km lunar polar orbit.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the mission as “an important step in the landmark journey.”
Though complicated, Chandrayaan-2 will now have to proceed with potentially more difficult stages of the plan, which is the lunar landing
“Our hearts almost stopped today till it completed its job,” Sivan describing the experience to reporters at a news conference. “But still the landing is the terrifying moment… because that is a phase that we are doing for the first time.”
Ahead of the lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-2 will now try to land near the little-explored south pole of the Moon in an attempt that’s tentatively set on September 7.
‘Today (August 20, 2019) after the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI), #Chandrayaan2 is now in Lunar orbit. Lander Vikram will soft-land on Moon on September 7, 2019,” the ISRO said in a tweet.
Particularly, Chandrayaan-2’s Moon landing is comprised of three separate moving parts: an orbiter, a lander, and a rover — the first step is, well, on its way.
Now, as the orbiter adjusts itself in the Moon’s orbit, the spacecraft will eventually release the lander, dubbed Vikram, which is also carrying a rover called Pragyan.
Specifically, the spacecraft will perform a series of orbit maneuvers, positioning itself into a circular orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 62 miles (100 km) from the Moon’s surface.
Once the orbiter accomplishes its part of the mission, it will then release the lander named Vikram — named after the founder of ISRO, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, who was considered as the Father of the Indian space program.
If Vikram makes another successful milestone of safely landing on the Moon, a rover named Pragyan (“wisdom” in Sanskrit) will have a 14-day life span to send data and images back to Earth for analysis and search for resources in lunar surface, such as signs of water and minerals or to measure Moonquakes, among other things.
Additionally, Pragyan is a 27 kilogram, six-wheeled robotic vehicle that can travel up to 500 meters and leverages solar energy for its functioning.
In an unfortunate instance where Vikram will not be able to survive the treacherous plunge to the Moon’s surface, the orbiter should remain at work around the Moon for about a year.
India also used its most powerful rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III), in this mission. It weighs 640 tonnes and stands at 44 meters (144ft).
Significantly still, Chandrayaan-2’s journey took more than six weeks, which is a lot longer than the four days that the Apollo 11 mission 50 years ago took to land humans on the lunar surface for the first time.
According to the ISRO, Chandrayaan-2 intently took a different route that took advantage of the Earth’s gravity to propel the spacecraft to the Moon, ultimately saving fuel.
If Chandrayaan-2’s landing goes smoothly, India will become the fourth nation to land softly on the Moon, following the Soviet Union, the U.S., and China.