As Chandrayaan-2 entered the lunar orbit on Tuesday, the scientists of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) heaved a sigh of relief and prepared for the next major step in the moon mission — separation of the lander from the orbiter on September 2.
“Now the Chandrayaan-2 is going around Moon with an inclination of 88 degrees. In due course, this orbit will be brought down and at that time the inclination will achieve 90 degrees,” ISRO Chairman K. Sivan told a press conference after the lunar mission achieved the major feat.
According to ISRO, the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) was completed successfully at 9.02 a.m. as planned using the onboard propulsion system. All the systems of Chandrayaan-2 are healthy.
“Our heart was almost stopping,” K. Sivan said, described the tense moments when the team Chadrayaan-2 was injecting the spacecraft into the lunar orbit.
“For 30 minutes, our heart was almost stopping,” he told the press conference after the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) manoeuvre was completed.
Chandrayaan-2 was launched on July 22 by India’s heavy lift rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV Mk III) in a text book style.
The spacecraft comprises three segments – the Orbiter (weighing 2,379 kg, eight payloads), the lander ‘Vikram’ (1,471 kg, four payloads) and rover ‘Pragyan’ (27 kg, two payloads).
The proposed soft-landing on the Moon on September 7 is going to be a “terrifying” moment as it is something ISRO has not done before, whereas LOI manoeuvre had been carried out successfully during the Chandrayaan-1 mission.
“The next major event will happen on 2nd September when the lander will be separated from the orbiter. On 3rd September we will have a small manoeuvre for about three seconds to ensure that the systems of the lander are running normally,” the ISRO chairman said.
“We are going to have four more manoeuvres and through this, the orbit will be reduced. On September 2, the lander will be separated from the orbiter. On September 4, we will do the real manoeuvre of the lander for about six seconds. For three days, we’ll check the systems and on September 7 at 1.40 am the lander will begin propulsion and at 1.55 a.m. it will land,” Sivan added.
He said the ISRO has done enough tests and simulations. “Whatever humanly possible, we did,” he added.
The health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Bylalu, near the Karnataka capital.
“This mission will help us gain a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon by conducting detailed topographical studies, comprehensive mineralogical analyses, and a host of other experiments on the lunar surface”, the space agency has said.
“While there, we will also explore discoveries made by Chandrayaan 1, such as the presence of water molecules on the Moon and new rock types with unique chemical composition,” the ISRO has said.