Chandrayaan-2: Stage set for India’s own Moon landing
CHENNAI: Nearly 11 years after the project was cleared by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chandrayaan-2, India’s second lunar mission, is ready for launch. The GSLV-MkIII will lift off with the spacecraft at 2.51am on Monday, putting India closer to its maiden Moon landing. All preparations are complete and Chandrayaan-2 is sitting inside the launch vehicle at the second launchpad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, about 100km north of Chennai. The 20-hour countdown for the launch began at 6.51am Sunday as per the schedule. But Isro knows the launch is only a first step. Once launched, Chandrayaan-2 will take more than 50 days to soft-land Vikram (the lander) on the lunar surface — it is scheduled for touchdown on September 6 or 7 — making India only the fourth nation in the world to achieve the feat. Unlike Chandrayaan-1, the Rs 978-crore mission involves landing Vikram and unloading Pragyan (the rover), while the Orbiter will go around Moon. Despite the mission coming 50 years after the world’s first instruments landed on Moon, Chandrayaan-2, riding on its predecessor’s (Chandrayaan-1) discovery of water, is a mission the world will sit up and watch. Isro chairman K Sivan has said that the mission is only the beginning and that the agency will follow this up by eventually sending a human to Moon. That, of course, will be an extension of another big-ticket project — Gaganyaan, which aims to send astronauts to space as early as 2022. India has conceived and realised several cutting-edge indigenous systems in the areas of navigation, guidance, control, on-board autonomy, precision sensors, throttable liquid engines, intricate communication links, et al for the project. “… I remember when I was nine or ten years old, when I was reading about the exploits of Nasa in the US, it was very exciting. I even dreamt of working in Nasa, but it did not happen. But the excitement of what Nasa was doing motivated me to take up a career in science and engineering. I would like to wish Isro the very best for the Chandrayaan mission from me and IISc,” IISc director Prof Anurag Kumar said. Chandrayaan-2 will carry a total of 14 payloads — 13 from India and one passive payload from NASA — with special focus on mapping craters in the polar region, besides checking for water again as reported by TOI earlier. The US’ Laser Retroreflector or LRA will be hosted by Vikram, and will spend as much time as the former on Moon.