India is on the verge of making history in space as Chandrayaan-2, its second lunar mission, is set to touch down at the surface of the Moon between 1.30 am and 2.30 am on September 7. Earlier this week on Monday, the Vikram lander separated from the main spacecraft module and began its descent to the lunar surface.
If successful, this will be India’s first soft landing on the moon’s surface. Only the US, the former USSR and China have been successful in soft-landing on the Moon.
So what exactly is the Vikram lander?
For beginners, the Chandrayaan-2 mission comprises of three modules – the Orbitor, Vikram lander and Pragyaan rover. The lander which is named after Dr. Vikram A Sarabhai, who is considered as the father of the Indian Space Programme, carries the Pragyaan rover.
It is the Vikram lander which will attempt the soft landing on the lunar surface in the early hours on September 7. So far the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has performed two de-orbiting manoeuvres of the lander and on Saturday, September 7, at the time it begins the process of descent, sometime after 1:30 am, Vikram would be traveling at 6 km per second, or approximately 21,600 km per hour. This is about 30 to 40 times the average speed of commercial airlines, which generally travel at a speed of 500-900 km per hour and within 15 minutes, the Vikram lander will bring its speed down to 2 metres per second (around 7 km per hour) or lower so as to enable a safe landing.
The Vikram lander is designed to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 days on Earth. Vikram has the capability to communicate with Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu near Bangalore, as well as with the Orbiter and Rover. The Vikram lander is designed to execute a soft landing on the lunar surface.