India & # 39; s mission to the moon, known as Chandrayaan-2, successfully entered the lunar orbit on August 20, prior to the country's first attempt to land a vehicle on the lunar surface. The maneuver was a crucial step for the mission that would allow India to become the fourth country to place a spaceship intact on the moon.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission began with the launch on July 22 on top of an Indian GSLV MK-III rocket. The cargo consists of three spaceships: a vehicle designed to turn around the moon, a lander named Vikram and a robber named Pragyan. While the orbiter remains in space, the lander is meant to carry the robber to the surface of the moon for a close-up of the moon.
So far, only the United States, Russia, and China have ever landed vehicles on the moon, so Chandrayaan-2 was able to place India in a very elite group of spacefaring countries. The mission is also tempting because of where Vikram is going: the south pole of the moon. This relatively unexplored part of the moon is particularly tempting for scientists because there are indications that this region can accommodate a significant amount of water ice. Experts have discussed in-depth what can be done with this ice, such as using it to maintain a moon base or breaking down the water to make rocket fuel. By landing in the South Pole, the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft must get a better idea of how much ice is up there and whether it can be mined at all.
The Vikram lander will land on the south pole of the moon on 7 September. Until then, the lander, robber and orbiter are all bundled in orbit around the moon. In the coming days and weeks, the spacecraft will slowly lower their height over the lunar surface by shooting aboard thrusters. As soon as the vehicles are in the correct position above the poles of the moon, the lander and the orbiter will separate, with Vikram making his historic descent to the surface.
The landing on Chandrayaan-2 marks the third attempt to place a vehicle on the lunar surface this year. In January, China successfully landed a spacecraft on the other side of the moon, and in April an Israeli non-profit attempted to hit the first privately financed lander on the lunar surface. A glitch, however, caused the engine of the private vehicle to fail prematurely and the spacecraft hit the moon instead. In a few weeks we will discover the fate awaiting the lander of India – a smooth landing or a fast one.