Bengaluru: All it took Indian space scientists was a four-second manoeuvre to inch closer to history as they nudged ‘Vikram’, the lander holding rover ‘Pragyan’ in its belly, and part of Mission Chandrayaan-2, closer to the Moon, on Tuesday.
‘Vikram’ is now on course to a soft touchdown in a zone hardly explored so far — the south pole region — on Earth’s natural satellite. It will descend nearer to the Moon, from its orbit of 104 km X 128 km, through another tweak of its cruise on Wednesday afternoon, by firing of mini-rockets onboard.
‘Vikram’ has been operating independently since Tuesday morning after it was launched as part of the orbiter-lander-rover mission on July 22. It broke free from the mothership, Chandrayaan-2, on Monday after but continued orbiting the Moon till the first step of the slide down commenced on Tuesday morning.
The “terrifying 15 minutes” often reiterated by Isro chairman Dr K. Sivan, is scheduled to begin at 1.40 am on Saturday, September 7, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, viewing from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at Istrac (Isro Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network) facility in Bengaluru.
The success of the Chandrayaan-2 mission will make India the fourth nation after the US, Russia and China to accomplish a soft-landing on lunar soil.
It, however, will top the list of successful touchdowns in the south pole region with its permanently shadowed craters estimated to hold about 100 million tonnes of water, and more important, scientific evidence on the birth and evolution of the solar system as these craters have remained untouched by rays of the Sun. For, an older Chinese probe landed in the northernmost part, followed by Russia’s Luna missions. Space scientists said a couple of hours after landing, ‘Pragyan’, the rover, will slide down a ramp between 5.30 and 6.30 am on September 7, to probe lunar soil over a period of one lunar day (equal to 14 days on Earth). ‘Vikram’ will also be opera tional for one lunar day.