The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday released the first set of images of earth captured by Chandrayaan-2, launched a fortnight ago, from outer space. “First set of beautiful images of the Earth captured by #Chandrayaan2 #VikramLander. Earth as viewed by #Chandrayaan2 LI4 Camera on August 3, 2019, 17:28 UT,” ISRO tweeted.
The 3,850-kg three-module Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft has moved into a higher orbit around the earth after firing its onboard propulsion system on Friday. This is the fourth time that the spacecraft has raised its orbit after being put in an Earth-bound elliptical orbit, 17 minutes after its launch on July 22. The Chandrayaan 2, however, still has to raise its orbit once more, on August 6, before preparing to break free from the Earth.
Since its launch on July 22, the Chandrayaan-2 has to undergo at least 15 complex manoeuvres over one-and-half months before the final, and most critical of all — the landing of the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover on the lunar surface on September 7.
Here’s a recap of what Chandrayaan 2 has done so far
Last week, a series of high-resolution pictures of earth were circulated across social media platforms, claiming to be the “first photographs” sent by ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2. A reverse image search on Google showed that most of the pictures in question were either illustrations or stock images lifted from websites including NASA. Another set of images doing rounds were, in fact, taken by astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS).
On August 2, the spacecraft, for the fourth time, moved into a higher orbit around the Earth after firing its onboard propulsion system. Chandrayaan-2, India’s first lander mission to the moon, is now going around the Earth in an orbit that is 277 km from the Earth’s surface at the nearest point and 89,472 km at the furthest.
A week after its launch, on July 29, Chandrayaan 2, for the third time, raised its orbit after being put in an Earth-bound elliptical orbit about 17 minutes after its launch.
Two days after its ascent into space, Chandrayaan 2, on July 24, had successfully performed its first manoeuvre using the onboard propulsion system for a firing duration of 48 seconds. Two days later, on July 26, it performed its second earth-bound orbit raising manoeuvre.
The spacecraft will raise its orbit once more, on August 6, before preparing to break free from the Earth and move towards the Moon, which will happen on August 14. The spacecraft will travel for six days before entering the lunar orbit on August 20.
Chandrayaan 2 to soft-land on Moon on September 7
On entering the Moon’s sphere of influence, the onboard propulsion system of Chandrayaan-2 will be fired to slow down the spacecraft. It will enable the spacecraft to be captured into a preliminary orbit around the Moon. Later, Chandrayaan-2 will perform a set of manoeuvres around the moon to be circularised at 100 km height from the lunar surface.
Subsequently, the lander will separate from the orbiter and enter into a 100 km X 30 km orbit around the Moon, and then, it will perform a series of “complex braking” manoeuvres to soft-land in the South polar region of the Moon on September 7.
The Chandrayaan 2 mission will try to understand the composition of the Moon by studying the measurements on the near-surface plasma environment and electron density in the lunar ionosphere. The mission will also measure the thermophysical property of the lunar surface and seismic activities. Apart from this, Chandrayaan 2 will also study the water molecule distribution using infrared spectroscopy, synthetic aperture radiometry & polarimetry as well as mass spectroscopy techniques.
Chandrayaan-2: The historic take-off
Carrying “a billion dreams” in India’s quest to land its first spacecraft on the moon, Chandrayaan-2, riding the powerful GSLV Mk-III rocket, was successfully launched at 2.43 pm on July 22 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. It was a textbook launch and initial anxiety evaporated 16 minutes 23 seconds later when scientists at mission control broke into applause, signalling that Chandrayaan-2 was now on its own.
The mission, if successful, will make India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to make a soft landing on the moon.
The launch went off without any hitch, a week after it was aborted 56 minutes before liftoff due to a technical snag. Starting its launch date, the Chandrayaan-2 was to spend 23 days circling around the earth, incrementally raising its orbit, before embarking on a seven-day journey to enter an orbit around the moon.