India is making final preparations for the launch this Sunday of the Chandrayaan 2 moon mission. The spacecraft will take two months to cruise to the moon. Following its arrival, it will manoeuvre into a circular orbit just 62 miles (100km) above the lunar surface. It will then deploy the Vikram lander early in September.
This will be India’s first attempt at a soft landing on the moon. If successful, it will make the country the fourth to achieve such a feat, after Russia, the US and China.
The chosen landing site is near the lunar south pole, where water ice has been detected in some permanently shadowed craters. Once safely down, the Vikram lander will release a small, six-wheeled rover named Pragyan.
The three components of the mission carry a full complement of scientific instruments. Among other things, they will study the moon’s mineral and chemical composition and its topology and seismology.
India’s first moon mission, Chandrayaan 1, launched in October 2008 and operated successfully for almost a year. As part of the mission, an impact probe struck the moon’s south pole in a controlled manner.