The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is set to run a historic launch later today, with the Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, which will aim to put a rover on the Moon’s south pole to help study the celestial body’s origin. The launch is target for 2:51 AM India Standard Time (IST), which is 5:21 PM EST. The live stream above should begin around 2:30 AM IST, or 5:00 PM EST.
Chandrayaan-2 will carry lunar lander Vikram, which will deliver ISRO rover Pragyan to the surface at the pole, with a target landing zone of a plain that covers the ground between two of the Moon’s craters, Simpelius N and Manzinus C. The rocket used for the launch is the GSLV Mk-III, India’s most powerful launch vehicle ever, and the orbiter used for this mission will relay back information from the lander and rover to Earth via the Indian Deep Space Network, as well as make its own observations during its planned one-year mission lifespan.
The mission will seek to take a number of measurements of the lunar surface, including topographic, mineral makeup, seismographic, chemical analytics and more, with an eye to shedding more light on the Moon’s origins. If all goes to plan, the lunar orbiter will make its way to to Moon over the next couple of months and aim to soft land the Vikram at the South Pole target site on September 6, 2019.
This is a historic mission for a few reasons, including being the first ever soft-landing attempt at the Moon’s South Pole region, as well as being the first Indian mission to attempt a soft landing using all home-grown lander and rover technology. If successful, India will be only the fourth country ever to have soft-landed a vehicle on the lunar surface.
Chandraayan-1 was the first ever Indian lunar probe mission, and was launched by ISRO in 2008, with the mission coming to a successful end in August 2009. Chandrayaan-1 employed a controlled crash landing to deliver the probe, unlike the soft landing descent planned for Chandrayaan-2.