Vikram, the lander module of Chandrayaan-2, has detached itself from the main spacecraft and started orbiting the moon independently, preparing itself for the descent to the lunar surface in the early hours of Saturday. The separation, one of the major milestones in the journey of Chandrayaan-2, took place at 1.15 pm Monday, according to ISRO.
The Vikram lander, which carries the Pragyan rover module inside it, is currently moving in the same orbit as the main spacecraft which had descended to a near-circular orbit Sunday. This orbit is 119 km from the moon’s surface at its nearest and 127 km at the farthest.
Key to landing
The separation of the lander module starts the most critical phase. While making the final descent, the speed of the lander will have to be brought down from a few thousand kilometres per hour to roughly about 2 km/hour or less to enable it to make a soft landing.
On Tuesday, the Vikram lander will move to a lower orbit — it will be 109 km at its nearest point from the moon and 120 km at the farthest.
“The health of the Orbiter and Lander is being monitored from the Missions 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 Bengaluru. All the systems of Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter and Lander are healthy,” ISRO said in a statement.
After another orbit-lowering manoeuvre Thursday, Vikram will get an orbit from where it will make the final descent to the moon’s surface in the early hours of Saturday. This orbit will bring Vikram within 35 km from the moon’s surface at its nearest point.
Within three hours of landing, the Pragyan rover is scheduled to move out of Vikram and start moving around on the moon’s surface, collecting data and carrying out experiments.
Both Vikram and Pragyan are supposed to function for 14 days. The main spacecraft will continue to move around the moon in its orbit for the next one year.