As Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft entered the moon's orbit this morning, executing one of the trickiest manoeuvres on its historic mission to the moon, space agency ISRO said the move was completed in 1738 seconds. The milestone was achieved after nearly a month of space travel. The next big test is after 18 days when the spacecraft lands on the South Pole of the moon.
"Our hearts stopped for 30 minutes till the job was done," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief Dr K Sivan said during a media briefing.
Today's insertion was one of the trickiest operations in the mission because if the satellite had approached the moon at a higher velocity, it would have bounced off and got lost in deep space. And had it approached at a slow velocity, the moon's gravity would have pulled it towards it, causing a crash.
If the rest of the mission goes to plan, Chandrayaan 2 will land on the lunar South Pole on September 7.
"When the descent starts (of lunar lander on September 7), the 15 minutes are going to be quite terrifying for us as the calculations have to be very accurate," Dr Sivan said. "The landing is a terrifying moment because till now, lander systems have not not operated," he added.
"Nearing our destination," ISRO had tweeted earlier, as it gave updates of the make-or-break process. The insertion "was completed successfully today at 0902 hrs IST (0332 GMT) as planned, using the onboard propulsion system. The duration of manoeuver was 1738 seconds," the space agency said.
India is seeking to become the fourth nation after Russia, the United States and China to land a spacecraft on the moon.
Chandrayaan 2 lifted off from ISRO's spaceport at Sriharikota in southern Andhra Pradesh on July 22. The lift-off was successful in its second attempt, a week after it was aborted just under an hour from its launch due to a technical glitch.
The mission stands out because of its low cost, with just about Rs. 1,000 crore spent - a much smaller price tag compared to similar missions by other countries.
(With inputs from AFP)