India's second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2, is scheduled to lift off at 2:51 am on July 15 from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. Space agency ISRO is giving final touches to the 3.8 ton satellite that has cost the country more than Rs. 600 crore. After launch, the Chandrayaan-2 satellite will take several weeks before it heads for a challenging soft-landing on the south pole of the moon, a territory that has never been visited by any space craft.
Speaking exclusively to NDTV, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief Dr K Sivan said that as the mission date approaches, there is a nervous excitement as this is the most complex mission ever to be undertaken by India's space agency that costs under Rs. 1000 crore.
Dr Sivan said last-minute touches are being given Chandrayaan-2 and that and it will be launched using the "Baahubali" or the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III).
Chandrayaan-2 consists of an orbiter, a lander named Vikram and a rover named Pragyaan and the nominal mission life of the lander is expected to be 14 earth days or one lunar day. The lander will also measure moon quakes.
The Chandrayaan-2 satellite weighs 3.8 tons or roughly the weight of 8 full grown elephants, the rover is carried inside the lander and will do on site experiments on the lunar surface for about 14 days and it is solar powered.
Chandrayaan-2 will explore a region of moon where no mission has ever set foot. The ISRO chief said the landing site, at about 70 degrees south latitude, is the southernmost for any mission till date. No country has attempted this before.
The mission will demonstrate soft landing for future missions and it carries 13 Indian scientific instruments that will help analyse the minerals on the moon, map the moon surface and search for water.
A NASA instrument for LASER ranging is being carried "free of cost", Dr Sivan said. Hence, in a way, India is giving a free ride to the American space agency to the moon.
Though Chandrayaan-2 is an indigenous mission, India will use the Deep Space Network of NASA on payment basis for navigation and guidance.
Dr Sivan, who tamed the the agency's "naughty boy", the GSLV Mk II, said, "Chandrayaan-2 is exciting and as days approach, there is a kind of churning in the stomach since it is a complex mission."
"It is the most complex mission ever to be undertaken by ISRO," he said. "There will 15 terrifying minutes when the lander separates and before it soft lands on the moon, currently slated for September 6, 2019.
The delay in Chandrayaan-2 was to ensure robustness and have full confidence it will be a success.