India’s landmark mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2, successfully took off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, at 2:43 pm, on Monday, marking the beginning of the country’s maiden journey to the south pole of the moon.
It is the first time that a spacecraft, indigenously developed by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), set foot on the lunar soil – a feat only achieved by three nations so far including US, Russia and China. The historic Chandrayaan-2aims to explore the south pole of the moon – a part of moon which has not been mapped by any other country before.
With it, the national space agency also succeeded in making use of the narrow ‘launch window’ of a few minutes which was available, after the initial launch was aborted on July 15. The agency had cut down the time period for the module to remain in moon orbit, in order to compensate for the delay of seven days and ensure that the day of landing does not get postponed by more than a day.
September landing is crucial since it marks the beginning of the 14-daylight period on the moon, which is crucial for conducting experiments by the solar-powered Lander and Rover.
Within the next 17 minutes of the launch from the space port in Sriharikota, the rocket would be injected to the Earth Parking Orbit (170 x 40,400 km). It would revolve around the earth for a period of around 23 days, after which a series of manoeuvres would be carried out to prepare it for ‘lunar capture’. The exercise could take up to five days.
Once injected into the lunar orbit, the Chandrayaan-2 module consisting of the orbiter, Lander Vikram and Rover Pragyaan would revolve around the moon for around 12 days. The landing would be attempted on the 48th day of the mission on September 7, when Lander Vikram would separate from the orbiter and begin what has been hailed as ‘the most terrifying 15 minutes’ of the mission.
During the next 15 minutes, the Lander Vikram would attempt a soft landing at an identified site between the two craters on the south pole of the moon. Following a successful landing, Rover Pragyaan would roll down the platform and begin mapping the lunar surface.
The mission will also serve as a crucial key test for three-stage rocket, Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)-Mk-III which would be used for India’s first human space mission Gaganyaan, scheduled for launch by 2022. The rocket vehicle armed with indigenous cryogenic engine is manufactured to carry 4 tonne class satellites.
The mission comes 11 years after the first mission to the moon in 2008, which gave the evidence for presence of water molecules on the moon. In the second mission, scientists aspire to further those experiments and explore the extent and distribution of water on the moon.