The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched the Chandrayaan-2 mission, which consists of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. The GSLV MkIII-M1 rocket, which is carrying the mission, launched at 14:43 IST from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
Chandrayaan-2 is the second mission in India’s Chandrayaan programme. Chandrayaan-1 was launched on 22 October 2008 and consisted of an orbiter and an impactor. With Chandrayaan-2 India will send a lander and rover down to the Moon’s surface where the rover will conduct on-site chemical analyses before sending data back to Earth via the orbiter and lander. If the lander and rover segments go smoothly, India will be the fourth country to perform a soft landing on the Moon after the U.S.S.R., U.S., and China.
Explaining how the Vikram lander will get safely to the surface, ISRO said:
“Imaging of the landing site region prior to landing will be done for finding safe and hazard-free zones. Vikram [(the lander)] will attempt to make a soft landing in a high plain between two craters — Manzinus C and Simpelius N — at a latitude of about 70° South on 7th September 2019.”
Once the lander is on the surface, the third and final stage of the mission involving the rover can go ahead. ISRO says that the Pragyan rover will roll out of the lander and conduct experiments for 14 Earth days (1 lunar day). The Vikram lander is also expected to continue operations for 14 days too before its mission ends. The orbiter’s mission will last significantly longer with a duration of one year.
ISRO has a third mission planned for its Chandrayaan programme dubbed Chandrayaan-3. It could collaborate with Japan on the mission but its other objectives are yet to be determined. Its tentative launch date is 2024.