India’s dream of landing on the moon is getting closer to reality as its Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft split in two on Monday, with one half set to land on the lunar surface later this week.
First launched in July, the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft broke into two pieces as expected. “The Vikram Lander successfully separated from Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter at 1315 Hrs IST today,” Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) officials said in a statement Monday.
The orbiter will circle the moon’s poles for roughly one year and the Vikram Lander is expected to land between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. GMT Sept. 7 if all goes according to plan. Following that, a rover is expected to leave the Vikram Lander between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.
ISRO officials added that the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter “continues to orbit the moon in its existing orbit” and the health of both the orbiter and the lander are being monitored by the Mission Operations Complex at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network in Bengaluru.
“All the systems of Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter and Lander are healthy,” ISRO continued.
The Chandrayaan-2 craft entered lunar orbit last month after it launched from Sriharikota in southern India on July 22. The mission is on track even though a technical glitch delayed the launch for a week.
The mission’s next maneuver will come tomorrow between 8:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. IST, Space.com reported.
The landing zone for the Vikram Lander is on a plateau between two craters and will be the farthest south of any moon landing to date. Vikram contains equipment for three experiments: one to study the moon’s ionosphere, one to study the temperature of the top 4 inches of the lunar surface and the other to study moonquakes.
The rover, known as Pragyan, has instruments to help identify elements near the landing site.
If Chandrayaan-2 is successful, it adds to India’s space legacy. Indian hardware has reached the moon before, with Chandrayaan-1 orbiting the moon in 2008. However, it launched an impact probe that intentionally crashed into the moon and has yet to achieve a “soft landing” on the lunar surface.
So far, only the US, Russia and China have successfully soft-landed on the moon.