A month-and-half after it took off from the launch pad at Sriharikota, traversing a distance of over 3,84,000 km on a pre-defined path, Chandrayaan-2 is ready to face its moment of truth.
Meanwhile it learnt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Bengaluru to witness live, Chandrayaan-2’s landing module ‘Vikram’ trying to pull off a historic soft-landing on the lunar surface in the early hours of Saturday.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive in Bengaluru on September 6 and will view the Chandrayaan landing during the wee hours on September 7 at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) near Peenya, and will leave for Mumbai on the same day,” Karnataka government’s official release said.
Around 60- 70 students from across the country will be watching live India’s proposed soft landing on the moon in the early hours of Saturday, along with Prime Minister Modi, ISRO has said.
Later tonight, its lander module, called Vikram, which has already detached itself from the main spacecraft and has been moving independently for the last three days, will begin what ISRO Chairman K Sivan has been repeatedly describing as the most terrifying 15 minutes of its journey the final descent to the moons surface from the nearest point in its current orbit, which is just 35 km in vertical distance.
At the time it begins the descent, sometime after 1:30 am Saturday, Vikram would be travelling at about 6 km per second, or about 21,600 km per hour. That is about 30 to 40 times the average speed of commercial airliners, which usually travel at speeds between 500 to 900 km per hour. Within 15 minutes, Vikram would need to bring down its speed to 2 metres per second (about 7 km/hr) or lower to enable a safe landing.
If successful, this would be Indias first soft landing on the moons surface. Only the US, the former USSR and China have been successful in landing humans or machines on the moon.
Chandrayaan-2 has had a smooth journey so far, but it is not difficult to see why Sivans description of the final descent captures the essence of this journey. Just five months back, in April this year, an Israeli attempt to make a soft landing on the moon ended in failure.