India’s most ambitious lunar mission to date – Chandrayaan-2 – is right on track, and has taken the next step in its journey to the moon.
Early on Wednesday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that the vehicle had been successful in a manoeuver called the ‘Trans Lunar Insertion’ carried out at 2.21 am, and had propelled itself out of the Earth’s orbit. With this, Chandrayaan-2 has now entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory.
Chandrayaan-2, which was launched on July 22 from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, its orbit was incrementally increased five times between July 23 and August 6. It is expected to approach the moon on August 20. The spacecraft’s liquid engine will be fired once more to insert it into the lunar orbit.
“Following this, there will be further four orbit maneuvers to make the spacecraft enter into its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the Moon’s surface,” ISRO said in a statement.
After the spacecraft is at an optimum distance from the moon, its engines will be fired once again to slow down it down, allowing it to be captured into the lunar body’s preliminary orbit. Then, Chandrayaan-2’s orbit will be circularized at a height of 100 kilometres from the moon’s surface, said K Sivan, ISRO chairman, to TOI. “Like we had raised the Earth orbit of Chandrayaan-2 with the help of the propulsion system to take the craft away from Earth, we will use the propulsion system to lower the lunar orbit of Chandrayaan-2,” he said.
After this, Vikram, the lander, will detach from the spacecraft on September 2, 2019. When Vikram is at the 30 kilometre-altitude, the final descent onto the moon will commence on September 6. “Two orbit maneuvers will be performed on the lander before the initiation of powered descent to make a soft landing on the lunar surface on September 07, 2019,” ISRO said.
So far, all systems on Chandrayaan-2 are operating normally. “The health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Byalalu, near Bengaluru,” ISRO said.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission is the first ISRO mission to have a woman mission director, Ritu Karidhal. The project director is M Vanitha.
If the spacecraft successfully lands on moon on September 7, it would put India on the map as the fourth country in the world to have made a soft landing on the moon after the US, former Soviet Union and China. Chandrayaan-2 takes forward the findings of Chandrayaan-1 which collected data that showed evidence of water in moon’s exosphere.
Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to land on the south pole of the moon, which is most likely to have water. This is because the south pole lies in the shadow region, i.e. it does not get sunlight; hence, it is likely that water of primordial origin (3-4 billion years ago) would be lying preserved here.
If water is discovered, it would have implications for space travel, and could possibly make the moon a rendezvous point having base materials for fuel and oxygen.