India’s Chandrayaan-2 Prepares for Moon Landing

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Chandrayaan-2 Lander and Orbiter Separate and Prepare for Landing 

In a truly remarkable feat given the budget of the project, India prepares to become the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon. Yesterday at approximately 3:45 am EDT Chandrayaan-2, India’s little-spacecraft-that-could, successfully separated its lander from the orbiter. The separation occurred after the Indian spacecraft orbited the Moon for the past two weeks. During that time, it incrementally lowered its orbit until the final burn and separation yesterday. The lander is expected to touch down on the lunar surface Friday at around 4:25 pm EDT.  

Watch: 3D Animation of Chandrayaan-2’s Mission

The Pride of India

When the landing takes place on September 6th, India will join the United States, Russia, and China as the only nations to have landed a spacecraft on the Moon. Although last month Israel attempted a landing, its craft, the Beresheet, crashed on the lunar surface and littered it with tardigrades. The Indian landing will be truly remarkable in that its space budget dwarfs that of those other nations. For example, NASA spends 21.5 billion dollars a year, while the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) spends a mere 1.8 billion. 

Chandrayaan-2’s lander, The Vikram, is named after Dr. Vikram A Sarabhai, who founded the ISRO. It weighs in at 1471 kilograms and contains a 27-kilogram rover named Pragyan, which is a Sanskrit word for “wisdom.” While the lander and rover have a lifespan of only one lunar day (about 14 days on Earth), the orbiter will continue to operate for a year. Onboard, the orbiter has a variety of scientific instruments, including both terrain mapping and high-resolution cameras and several spectrometers.  

The Purpose of the Chandrayaan-2 Mission

In addition to mapping and imaging, the goals of Chandrayaan-2 include studying the composition of the lunar surface, searching for hydroxy and water ice, and observing the lunar exosphere.  These mission objectives are similar to those of the other nations all currently racing to get back to the moon. Most current lunar missions are focused on studying the Moon’s polar regions because of the ice water, which can be used to make rocket fuel. The United States and China have plans to build surface bases on the lunar south pole. From there they hope to be able to stage future missions to Mars.  

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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