A scale model of the Indian lunar craft Chandrayaan 2 on display as Dr K Sivan, Chairman of the Indian space agency, widely known as the Rocket Man of India celebrates the successful lift off of the Chandrayaan-2 satellite at a press meet on August 20, 2019 in Bengaluru, IndiaImage copyright
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Chandrayaan-2 is a three-in-one mission comprising an orbiter, a lander and a six-wheeled rover

India’s second Moon mission will see the country’s space agency attempt to land a rover on the lunar surface on 7 September. Science writer Pallava Bagla explains how it will reach the Moon and why it is significant.

Why is this mission unique?

Costing $150 million, Chandrayaan-2 will carry forward the achievements of its predecessor Chandrayaan-1 which was launched in 2008 and discovered the presence of water molecules on the parched lunar surface.

Chandrayaan-2 is a three-in-one mission comprising an orbiter, a lander named Vikram and a six-wheeled rover named Pragyaan.

It was launched on 22 July, a week after its scheduled blast-off, which was halted due to a technical snag.

It entered the Moon’s orbit nearly a month later in a tricky operation, completing a series of manoeuvres before its lander was cut loose on 2 September.

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Media captionThe successful launch of India’s Moon mission

Now, on 7 September, a little after midnight India local time (1800 GMT), the lander which contains the rover will be sent hurtling down to the lunar surface where it is expected to make a landing near the South Pole of the Moon.

The last 15 minutes of the mission, when the Vikram lander will attempt to autonomously guide itself down to the lunar surface with no support from ground control, has been described as “15 minutes of terror” by the head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), Dr K Sivan.

If India does succeed in touching down with the Vikram lander intact, it will become the fourth country to do so after the US, Russia and China.

More importantly for Indians, it will mean the nation’s flag will reach the Moon intact.

How will it land on the Moon?

The Moon may be Earth’s closest neighbour, but landing on it is a very tricky operation.

It has no atmosphere worthy of the name, which means parachutes cannot be used to slow the lander’s descent to the surface. The only option therefore is to go in for what is called a