- Lunar lander Vikram successfully separated from the orbiter on Monday
- Vikram expected to make lunar soft landing in early hours of Saturday
- Mission could make India fourth nation to make successful soft landing
As India prepares to make space history by becoming only the fourth country to successfully complete a soft landing on the moon's surface, ISRO has taken to social media to post a cartoon in which the lunar orbiter wishes lander Vikram good luck ahead of the historic moment.
"It was great travelling with you so far Vikram. Best of luck! I hope you reach the South Pole soon," the lunar orbiter says as it releases lander Vikram, which replies, "It was quite the journey indeed! I'll see you around - in the orbit."
"We have the same wishes for Vikram, Orbiter," ISRO adds to this imagined conversation.
We have the same wishes for Vikram, Orbiter.— ISRO (@isro) September 6, 2019
Want to stay in touch with Vikram and Pragyan as they make their way to the untouched lunar South Pole and uncover its many mysteries? Then keep an eye out for the next edition of #CY2Chronicles! pic.twitter.com/2iA8W2lxtR
Lunar lander Vikram successfully separated from the orbiter at 1.15 pm on Monday, entering a descending orbit around the moon. It has already performed two manoeuvres to lower its altitude for a perfect touchdown between 1:30 am and 2:30 am on Saturday.
The lander is expected to touch down near the south pole of the moon in the early hours of Saturday morning. The achievement will propel the nation into an elite club that counts China, the United States and Russia as the only other members.
Once it has landed, lunar rover Pragyan, which is housed inside the lander, will roll out and deliver scientific payloads to conduct surface and subsurface experiments. Meanwhile the lunar orbiter will also conduct experiments - to map the surface and study the Moon's outer atmosphere.
Vikram and Pragyan are expected be active for a period of one lunar day (14 Earth days), while the orbiter is expected to remain active for a year.
India will also become the first country to land close to the lunar South Pole on its first attempt.
Chandrayaan 2 began its journey to the Moon on July 22, launching from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh and successfully entering orbit around Earth a few minutes later.
The spacecraft entered lunar orbit on August 20 in a critical manoeuvres that lasted 1,738 seconds. Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) was one of the trickiest operations in the mission; failure would have left the spacecraft either stranded in deep space or crashing on the Moon's surface.
Last month Chandrayaan 2 took its first photograph of the moon. The image was taken from a distance of 2,650 kilometres from the surface and showed two significant landmarks - Apollo crater and the Mare Orientale basin.
Take a look at the first Moon image captured by #Chandrayaan2#VikramLander taken at a height of about 2650 km from Lunar surface on August 21, 2019.— ISRO (@isro) August 22, 2019
Mare Orientale basin and Apollo craters are identified in the picture.#ISROpic.twitter.com/ZEoLnSlATQ
Earlier ISRO released five stunning photographs of Earth as seen by Chandrayaan 2; the images were taken from a distance of approximately 5,000 kilometres away. ISRO Chairman K Sivan described the images as "crystal clear".
Considering ISRO's budget is less than 1/20th of American space agency NASA, a success story for the Rs 1,000-crore moon mission, which cost less than Hollywood blockbuster 'Avengers: Endgame', would be a giant boost for India's space plans.
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