India’s second lunar mission, Chandrayaan 2 has successfully entered the moon’s orbit after a complex, make-or-break manoeuvre by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) earlier today.
It was a tricky operation as a higher than ideal approach velocity would have bounced the spacecraft into deep space while a slow approach velocity would have led to the moon’s gravity pulling on the spacecraft and crashing it into the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan 2 is now just days away from a moon landing with "Vikram", a 1.4-tonne lander, ready for a soft landing on September 7. “Vikram” will in turn set the 27-kg rover "Pragyan" down on a high plain between two craters on the lunar south pole.
“The final descent of the lander will be 15 terrifying minutes for us, as it is something we’ve never tried before. It is one of the most complex operations we’ve ever handled,” said K Sivan, Chairman of ISRO.
Chandrayaan 2 blasted off at a velocity of 39,240 kilometres per hour, making the process of landing it on the moon very complex.
After the landing, the rover will carry out experiments on the moon's surface for one lunar day, which is equal to 14 earth days. The mission life of the lander is also one lunar day, while the orbiter will continue its mission for a year.
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Chandrayaan 2 is ISRO's most complex and prestigious mission and if successful, will make India the fourth country to soft land a rover on the lunar surface after Russia, US and China. Israel failed in its maiden attempt to do the same earlier this year.