03:46 GMT27 November 2020
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    Overcoming a months-long delay caused by technical snags, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is now just days away from launching its Chandrayaan-2 lunar spacecraft into the moon’s orbit.

    ISRO has indicated that the lunar craft will blast off into the cosmos from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota at 5:21 p.m. EDT on July 14 aboard the country’s most powerful booster - a three-stage GSLV Mk-III rocket.

    The Chandrayaan-2, which consists of an orbiter, lander and a rover, will be carrying 13 Indian payloads in addition to a “passive” experiment from the US’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) known as the Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA).

    ​“The LRA is a mirrored device that reflects laser signals to help mission team members pinpoint where a lander is as well as precisely calculate the moon's distance from Earth,” explains Space.com, noting that the payload is of the same design as a device launched aboard Israel’s doomed Beresheet moon lander earlier this year.

    Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter and lander will be stacked together inside the rocket’s launch vehicle, while the rover will be situated inside the lander, which officials have named Vikram. The rover has been identified as Pragyan.

    As for the payloads, eight will be held on the orbiter, three on the lander and two on the rover. 

    The primary objective of the mission is to demonstrate the agency’s ability to carry out a soft landing on the lunar surface and to operate a robotic rover there. ISRO officials have indicated that the mission will include studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.

    If all goes as planned, the lander and orbiter are expected to go into an initial elliptical lunar orbit on either August 5 or 6, before the pair separate. The Vikram lander’s arrival on a high plain between craters Manzinus C and Simpelius N is estimated to take place between September 6 and 7. The touchdown will take place near the southern pole of the moon, a first for a space mission, according to India Today.

    The orbiter portion of the mission is expected to last for a year, whereas the lander and rover are planned to function for the duration of one lunar day, which translates to about 14 Earth days.


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    Chandrayaan-2, Space, India, moon, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
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