India’s Chandrayaan-2 has completed its last set of tricky maneuvers around the Moon and is ready to put its lander, Vikram, to the test by making the country’s first attempt at landing on the lunar surface.
The circular lunar orbit, which is the final destination for the orbiter and lander, was entered on September 1. In total, Chandrayaan-2 has made five lunar orbit maneuvers within the whole 42-day journey, to reach the most optimal distance for Vikram to attempt to get to the Moon’s surface.
The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft performed a 52-second maneuver at 8:51 A.M. EDT (18:21 IST/12:51 GMT), refining its orbit to a path that ranges from 74 to 79 miles (119-127 kilometers) above the lunar surface.
Now, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is also getting ready to put its focus towards getting Vikram to land on the Moon, preferably in one piece successfully.
ISRO Chairman K Sivan told an outlet that, “After the Chandrayaan-2 launch (on July 22), we have been working on the composite module and using its propulsion system to maneuver it. Around 2 P.M. tomorrow (Monday), Vikram lander will get separated from the orbiter to continue its downward journey to land on Moon.”
Furthermore, Sivan describes that the separation of Vikram from the orbiter will be like the “parting of a bride from her parent’s house. From tomorrow onward, our entire focus will be on Vikram. However, a separate team will also monitor the orbiter.”
The Indian space agency expects to continue with the scheduled line of events saying in an update that “all spacecraft parameters are normal.”
After Monday’s separation, the ISRO will conduct two deorbit maneuvers using the lander’s propulsion system to lower its altitude where the first deorbit will happen between Monday, September 2 11:30 P.M. EDT (03:30 Sept. 3 GMT) to 09:00 – 10:00 Tuesday, September 3 IST.
The second deorbit will be on Tuesday, September 3 5:30 P.M. EDT (21:30 GMT) to 03:00 – 04:00 IST Wednesday, September 4 to reach an orbit target of 36 x 110 kilometers from the Moon’s surface.
“The final powered descent will start at 1:40 A.M. on September 7, [Saturday] to make the lander soft-land near the south pole at 1:55 A.M.,” Sivan said.
During the last 15 minutes of the descent, the lander will go down at a velocity of 2 meters per second and touchdown between two craters Manzinus C and Simpelius N at a latitude of about 70.9 degrees South 22.7 degrees East. If it fails to land on the chosen location, the ISRO has an alternative site which is at 67.7 degrees South and 18.4 degrees West.
Notably, the ISRO wants to land on the Moon’s south pole because of Chandrayaan-1’s, the country’s first lunar mission, discovered the possibility of the existence of water on the Moon’s surface by only using radars.
Once Vikram lands, the six-wheeled rover called Pragyan will also detach from the lander after four hours.
The 27-kg rover, which is loaded with two payloads and has images of Tricolour, will move on the lunar surface at a speed of 1cm per second. It is designed to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days.
During its short lifespan, Pragyan, which can generate 50W power using solar energy, will move up to 500 meters and take images and analyze content on the lunar surface. It will be able to send back data via Vikram to Earth within 15 minutes.
Significantly, a successful Moon landing will make India the fourth country after the U.S., Russia, and China to be able to achieve the feat.
However, in the instance that Vikram will fail to perform its lunar landing, the 1000W-powered an 2,379-kg orbiter will be able to continue conducting remote-sensing observations of Moon with its one year-lifespan.
Also, aside from taking images of the Moon from the 100km altitude, the orbiter with the help of its payloads will conduct elemental composition of Moon, mineral mapping, look for water ice, polar-region mapping to find sub-surface water ice and topography mapping.
As the Chandrayaan-2 prepared for it’s highly anticipated moon landing, it was able to take stunning snapshots of the Earth and Moon along the way. Last week, the ISRO released the said pictures.