The crucial process of the soft landing of the Vikram lander onboard the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft that is currently in the lunar orbit will be taken up in the early hours of September 7, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said on Thursday. Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation in Bengaluru would be engaged in this process which is expected to be completed by 1:55am, he told reporters at the airport in Chennai.
"It is expected to make a soft landing (on the surface of the moon) at around 1:40am and completed by 1:55am. At the global level this is an important mission. It is being keenly watched by everyone," he said.
Elaborating about the complexity involved, he said the speed of the spacecraft needs to be brought down to 'zero.' In a major milestone for India's second Moon mission, the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft successfully entered the lunar orbit on Tuesday by performing Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) manoeuvre.
The second Lunar bound orbit manoeuvre for the spacecraft was successfully performed on Wednesday. There will be three more orbit manoeuvres to make the spacecraft enter into its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100km from the Moon's surface. ISRO has said subsequently the lander will separate from the Orbiter (on September 2) and enter into a 100km x 30km orbit around the Moon. Then it will perform a series of complex braking manoeuvres to soft land in the South polar region of the Moon.
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Asked whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be part of the event when 'Vikram' makes the soft landing, he said an invitation has been sent seeking the Prime Minister's participation. Asked if there was any gender bias at ISRO, he said there was no such discrimination and talented women were always given better roles.
"There is no gender bias at ISRO. Two women got an opportunity during Chandrayaan-2 mission. Similarly, there will be opportunities for women to play lead roles in future projects (of ISRO)," he said.
Two women scientists were in the limelight when ISRO launched the Chandrayaan-2 on July 22 with Ritu Karidhal and M Vanitha being the mission and project directors respectively. Sivan was on Thursday honoured with the Tamil Nadu government's Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Award by Chief Minister K Palaniswami at the Secretariat in Chennai.
Chandrayaan-2, launched on July 22 by India's most powerful rocket GSLV MkIII-M1, had entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory on August 14, leaving Earth orbit. It comprises an Orbiter, Lander (Vikram), named after the father of Indian space research programme Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, and Rover (Pragyan).
The rover is set to make the soft landing on the Moon on September 7 and if successful the mission would make India the fourth country after Russia, the US, and China to achieve the feat.