BENGALURU: The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is now just one step away from being on its way to the moon. On Tuesday afternoon, scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) raised the around-the-earth orbit to 276 km (closest to earth) by 1,42,975 km (farthest from earth), in the fifth and last orbit-raising manoeuvre.
Now, on August 14 afternoon, the Chandrayaan-2 will hurtle towards the lunar orbit in what is called the trans lunar trajectory after it loops around the earth as close as 266 km before achieving its farthest distance of as much as 4,13,623 km – which will be the distance at which it will loop around the moon, before being inserted into a trans lunar orbit on August 20.
ISRO, in its statement on Tuesday, said, the fifth earth-bound orbit-raising manoeuvre for the spacecraft was performed successfully at 3.04 pm on Tuesday as planned, using the onboard propulsion system for a firing duration of 1,041 seconds.
The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is expected to make three orbits around the moon before releasing the lander ‘Vikram’ to enable it to land near the lunar south pole on September 7. Once firmly on the lunar surface, the lander will release the rover ‘Pragyan’ to conduct experiments on the moon’s surface for a period of one lunar day (14 earth days). However, Pragyan has a battery capability to last only for 500 metres, while Vikram will remain at a static position on the lunar surface.
The orbiter will continue to orbit around the moon for a period of two years, which the ISRO scientists said was originally planned for just one year.
The Rs 978-crore unmanned lunar mission will continue to send data to the Deep Space Network (DSN) at Byalalu, located 35 km from Bengaluru en route to Mysuru.
The mission is being keenly followed by US National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA), which is working at a feverish pitch to land the first astronauts on the moon after the Apollo series moon landings which culminated in 1972. NASA’s $1.6 billion Artemis programme looks at landing the astronauts near the south pole by 2024, which explains its interest in the data collected by ISRO ahead of its own ambitious mission.
Chandrayaan-2 was launched on July 22 afternoon on board GSLV MK-III M1 launcher from ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.