India Readies A New Lunar Mission

A robotic rover is scheduled to launch on Monday

Indian Space Research Organization

For observers of the current state of space exploration, this week brings exciting news. India is scheduled to launch Chandrayaan-2, an unmanned lunar rover, into space on Monday. If the mission is successful, India will become the fourth nation to successfully land on the Moon. 

According to a New York Times report, the probe will take nearly two months to reach the Moon, with an anticipated arrival date of September 6th. 

Chandrayaan-2 will take a slow, fuel-efficient path to the moon, similar to the trajectory that the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft followed. Through repeated firings of its thrusters, it will stretch out its elliptical orbit until it is captured by the moon’s gravity. Additional thruster firings will then make the orbit around the moon more circular, a prelude to the landing.

A New York Times article neatly summarizes the ways in which this mission to the Moon has captured the hearts and minds of India’s population, particularly students — who are unsurprisingly thrilled at the prospect of their country beginning to explore space. 

The lunar probe, Vikram, is named for Dr. Vikram A. Sarabhai, who is considered to be the father of India’s space program. Sarabhai was involved in setting up the nation’s first rocket launch sites, and also served as the head of India’s Atomic Energy Commission and the Indian Space Research Organization at the time of his death in 1971. 

As its name suggests, Chandrayaan-2 follows an earlier mission: 2008’s Chandrayaan-1 also ventured to the Moon but did not land. As part of its mission, it was able to detect evidence of water on the Moon. 

Assuming all goes well, this new mission promises to be a significant step forward for India’s spacefaring ambitions — and for humanity’s knowledge of space as a whole.

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