India’s first moon lander, Vikram, successfully separated from its mother spacecraft Chandrayaan-2 on Monday, 2 September, at 1:15 am. It is scheduled to land on the south polar region of the moon on 7 September, between 1:30 am and 2:30 am.
After the lunar touchdown by Vikram, the rover – Pragyan – will roll down from it to carry out research for which it was designed. It will operate there for 14 days, carry out experiments and collect data samples for further assessment.
The mission will see the lander and rover module of the spacecraft make a soft landing on the lunar surface 48 days from its date of launch, which was 22 July.
Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second lunar mission after Chandrayaan-1, which was launched in 2008. The name Chandrayaan itself means ‘moon vehicle’ (chandra: moon and yaan: vehicle).
The Launch Vehicle
ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-MkIII (GSLV Mk-III) carried the Chandrayaan-2 mission into space. The GSLV Mk-III is ISRO’s most powerful launcher yet, the organisation has said.
“The GSLV Mk-III’s integrated module, which comprises of technology and software developed across the country, includes ISRO’s most powerful launch vehicle to date and a wholly indigenous rover,” ISRO said.
Some of the advancements on the spacecraft include:
- Lander capable of 'Soft Landing' on the lunar surface
- Algorithm wholly developed by India's scientific community
- Rover capable of conducting in-situ payload experiments
The 'Vikram' Lander
The Lander, named Vikram after Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian Space Program, weighs about 1,471 kg and will generate about 650 Watts of power, according to ISRO.
It’s designed to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days. Vikram has the capability to communicate with IDSN at Byalalu near Bengaluru, as well as with the Orbiter and Rover.
The space organisation said that the Lander is designed to execute a soft landing on the lunar surface (surface of the moon).
The ‘Pragyan' Rover
The Pragyan Rover, which will orbit the moon, while the lander performs its experiments, will weigh 27 kilograms and generate 50 Watts of power.
The Pragyan rover will be a six-wheeled robotic vehicle will be able to travel up to 500 m and leverages solar energy for its functioning. It can only communicate with the Vikram Lander, which will them send the signals to the team in Bengaluru.
Upon launch, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter was made capable of communicating with the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu as well as the Vikram Lander. The mission life of the orbiter is one year and will be placed about 100x100km in the lunar polar orbit.
The moon-landing for the Vikram rover is scheduled for 6 September, if everything goes well with the mission.
The lander will make a soft landing near the south pole of the moon, after which the rover will be deployed to undertake the experiments.
"“It will orbit for four days and then it will be D-day. It will land at a place near south pole. It will take 15 minutes to land and is going to be the most terrifying moment because this flight is the flight ISRO has never undertaken.”" - Dr K Sivan, chairperson, ISRO
Sivan, while announcing the mission, said that the rover’s door will open after landing on the moon’s surface.
Sivan said that the rover will take four hours to come out after the landing. The rover and the lander will have a lifespan of one lunar day, during which they will conduct scientific experiments. On the other hand, the orbiter will have a lifespan of one year.
Both the orbiter and the lander will send the communications directly to earth.
Why Land on South Pole
According to K Sivan, there are two reasons for choosing the south pole of the moon:
- Convenience, as ISRO will depend on solar power. A flat surface without many boulders or craters will be required for the landing. The chosen area also has good visibility and ample solar light.
- Scientifically, water and minerals are expected to be present at the chosen area more than in the other areas.
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