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India is getting ready to attempt its first-ever Moon landing on Friday, September 6 after its spacecraft lowered its orbit around the Moon in preparation for the touchdown.
Earlier today, Friday, August 30, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) lowered the orbit of the Chandrayaan-2 mission to 124 kilometers by 164 kilometers around the Moon, the fourth maneuver so far in lunar orbit for the spacecraft. Another maneuver is planned on September 1, before the mission’s lander – called Vikram – will separate from the orbiter on September 2.
Chandrayaan-2, which launched on July 22, is India’s second mission to the Moon after the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008. However, it is the first attempt by the nation to touch down on the surface – which would make them only the fourth nation to do so after the Soviet Union, U.S., and China.
The mission consists of an orbiter, the Vikram lander, and a small rover called Pragyan. After Vikram has separated from the orbiter, it will lower its orbit around the Moon until it is at most 100 kilometers above the surface. Then at 4.10 P.M. Eastern time on Friday, September 6 (1.40 A.M. local time in India on September 7), it will begin a 15-minute final descent to the surface, ultimately touching down at 4.25 P.M. Eastern Time.
Vikram is intended to land near the lunar South Pole, in what is more accurately referred to as the south polar region. This is a scientifically intriguing region, where it’s thought water-ice could be trapped beneath the surface or stored in shadowy craters. Future plans for a lunar base have eyed this region, where the ice could be used as a valuable resource.
“The globe is waiting for our data,” Dr Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chair of the ISRO, said in a news conference last week. “We are going to land at a place for the first time on the south pole and NASA has already announced the project of a having human habitat type of thing on the south pole. So this will be giving input on a program which is concerning humanity in a major way.”
This article first appeared on www.forbes.com
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