India’s lunar spacecraft launch Sunday on first ever mission to moon’s south pole
BY: JACKSON RYAN
Fifty years after, a historic new moon landing mission is readying for launch. After , the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is set to launch the Chandrayaan-2 mission this Sunday with plans to become the first nation to land at the lunar south pole.
It won’t feature humans, but Chandrayaan-2 is carrying three lunar exploration robots able to survey the moon from both the surface and the sky.
The launch is currently scheduled for Sunday, July 14 at 2:21 p.m. PT and will take place at India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, north of Chennai. The payload of Chandrayaan-2 consists of a lunar orbiter, a lunar lander and a lunar rover, and will be launched atop the ISRO-developed GSLV Mk-III rocket. That rocket is about half as powerful as the SpaceX Falcon 9 and will put Chandrayaan-2 into what is known as an “Earth parking orbit” before the module uses its own power to extend its orbit and eventually position itself for a lunar rendezvous.
ISRO are yet to provide information on whether the launch will be livestreamed or not, so check back here in the coming days.
Why is this mission called Chandrayaan-2?
This is the sequel to Chandrayaan-1, an ISRO mission that launched 11 years ago featuring only a lunar orbiter. That orbiter reached the moon on Nov. 8, 2008 and then fired an impacter which struck the south pole. The material ejected from the sub surface allowed ISRO to detect lunar water ice — a valuable resource that could enable future exploration. Chandrayaan-2 will look to build on this monumental discovery from the ground.
When will Chandrayaan-2 reach the moon?
Provided Chandrayaan-2 launches on time, it is expected to reach the moon on Sept. 6, 2019. If it can achieve the difficult feat of landing on the surface, India will become just the fourth nation to complete a soft landing in history, following the US, Russia and China, which currently has the Chang’e 4 rover.
The lander and rover are headed for the lunar south pole, exploring a scientifically important region that has been shown to contain water ice. The lunar lander, known as “Vikram,” and a rover, known as “Pragyan,” will set up shop in the south, far further than any previous mission to the moon. The proposed landing spot is between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N.