In this picture released by ISRO Thursday, July 11, 2019, officials carry out the hoisting of the Vikram Lander during the integration of Chandrayaan-2, at the launch center in Sriharikota.  (Photo: ISRO/PTI)
In this picture released by ISRO Thursday, July 11, 2019, officials carry out the hoisting of the Vikram Lander during the integration of Chandrayaan-2, at the launch center in Sriharikota. (Photo: ISRO/PTI)

Isro gears up for soft landing on Moon with Chandrayaan-2’s launch on 15 July

  • A similar attempt made by Israel in April was unsuccessful.
  • If successful, India will become only the fourth country after the US, Russia and China to carry out a soft landing on the moon

NEW DELHI : Nearly 11 years after it made a historic entry into the moon’s atmosphere in its first attempt, India is all set to launch its second lunar probe early morning on Monday, with ambitious plans to attempt a soft landing on the dark side of the moon.

Having already shown its ability to put a satellite into the lunar orbit with Chandrayaan-1, the space agency is gearing up for a tough test when its indigenously built lander Vikram attempts a soft landing on the moon on 6 September.

(Photograph Courtesy ISRO; Graphic By Paras Jain/Mint)

“Those 15 minutes would be the most terrifying moment for us. Even a fraction of a second should not go against the plan. It is going to be the most difficult task ISRO has ever undertaken," Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman K. Sivan had said in New Delhi in June.

If successful, India will become only the fourth country after the US, Russia and China to carry out a soft landing on the moon. A similar attempt made by Israel in April was unsuccessful.

The Chandrayaan-2 will have an orbiter, a lander named Vikram and a rover called Pragyaan, all developed by India. The space agency has selected its most powerful rocket – the three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-III)—to put the payload into space.

While the orbiter will continue to revolve around the Moon for a year, the lander and rover will remain on the lunar surface for 14 Earth days. This will give scientists the opportunity to study the mineral composition of the top soil of the Moon, which could be a future energy source for the Earth.

The mission will try and build on the evidence of water molecules shown by Chandrayaan-1 and study the extent and distribution of water on the Moon. The observations could also give an insight into the origin and evolution of the Moon.

“Study of minerals is not only important for their potential use on the earth in future but also for further space explorations. And water is crucial, since it will be required if humans ever have to move to Moon. But most importantly, if we succeed in ‘soft landing’, we can undertake future missions with more confidence. We have taken the challenge, developed everything on our own and it’s all set now," said Ajay Lele, senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Delhi.

As the GSLV-III lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, at 2.51am on Monday, the three-stage rocket will propel the integrated module into the Earth’s orbit.

The integrated module (payload) will then separate from the rocket and open its satellite panel.

This will be followed by a series of complex orbital manoeuvres as scientists raise the module into higher orbits until it reaches the “Earth to Moon" transfer orbit. On entering the Moon’s orbit, on-board thrusters will slowly lower the spacecraft for lunar capture.

Two months later, on the scheduled day of landing, Vikram will separate from the orbiter and perform a series of complex manoeuvres, while simultaneously scanning and capturing images of the landing site to find a safe and hazard-free zone.

The space agency has identified a site between two craters near the south pole of the Moon—a dark zone which has not been explored much before. There is a possibility of water presence in these permanently shadowed areas— the so-called ‘dark side of the moon’. The region also has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early solar system.

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