NEW DELHI – India is set to launch its second lunar mission in mid-July to explore the south pole of the lunar surface, the country’s space agency said on Wednesday.
Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft will land on the moon’s unexplored territory Sept. 6 or 7, Indian Space and Research Organisation head Kailasavadivoo Sivan said.
“ISRO has never undertaken such a type of complex flight,” Sivan told reporters, adding that the mission was to gather data on the presence of water on the moon and its mineral composition, apart from carrying out diverse experiments.
According to Sivan, the lunar probe will be launched at 2:51 am local time (2121 GMT July 14) from the spaceport of Sriharikota.
The spacecraft, with a total weight of 3.8 tons, includes three modules – Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan).
The composite body of the spacecraft, Sivan said, will remain in the circular orbit of some 100 km around the moon, and when the time is right, the spacecraft will separate from the orbiting module.
The landing craft will reduce its orbit in a controlled manner before descending, which would last for 15 minutes.
Sivan said that “these 15 minutes will be the most terrifying moment of our office.”
“Not only people from ISRO, but for the entire India it will be a terrifying moment because these 15 minutes flight is the flight ISRO has never undertaken,” he said.
The launch of Chandrayaan-2 was initially planned for 2018.
It is India’s second lunar exploration mission designed after its earlier version, Chandrayaan-1, was put in the lunar orbit in November 2008.
India has one of the most active space programs in the world. The country began placing satellites in orbit in 1999.
It is part of an exclusive group of countries that have a satellite navigation system, including the United States (GPS) and Russia (GLONASS), among others.