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Chandrayaan-2 leaves Earth’s Orbit, Heads towards Moon

India’s ambitious lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 left the earth’s orbit Wednesday (August 14) and is headed towards the moon after a crucial manoeuvre by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The satellite is another step closer to the moon after the “Trans Lunar Insertion (TLI) manoeuvre was carried out successfully at 2.21 am as planned”, the space agency said, NDTV reported.

“The final orbit raising manoeuvre of Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was successfully carried out today at 02:21 am IST. During this manoeuvre, the spacecraft’s liquid engine was fired for about 1203 seconds. With this, Chandrayaan-2 entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory,” ISRO said in a statement. An orbit raising manoeuvre is the process of raising a satellite into an orbit towards to Moon, while it still revolves around the Earth.

Chandrayaan-2, billed as ISRO’s most complex and prestigious mission, will make India the fourth country to soft land a rover on the lunar surface after Russia, US and China. The last nation to attempt a soft landing on the Moon, Israel, failed in its maiden attempt earlier this year.

The mission stands out because of its low cost, with some Rs. 1,000 crore spent on preparations for the mission – a much smaller price tag compared to similar missions by other countries.

The spacecraft’s orbit was “progressively increased five times” between July 23 and August 6 after India’s second lunar mission was launched on July 22 from its launch pad in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota on July 22.

The lift-off was successful in its second attempt, a week after it was aborted just under an hour from its launch due to a technical glitch.

The 3.8 tonne satellite will now cruise for the next six days and is expected to reach the moon’s orbit on August 20.

As the spacecraft approaches the moon on August 20, its liquid engine will be fired again to insert it into lunar orbit, the ISRO said. “Following this, there will be four orbit maneuvers to make the spacecraft enter its final orbit, passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the moon’s surface,” it said.

After 13 days of moon-bound orbit phase, the spacecraft will engage Vikram, a 1.4-tonne lander, which will in turn set the 27-kilogramme rover Pragyan down on a high plain between two craters on the lunar South Pole, where no country has gone so far, according to the ISRO. It is expected to soft land on moon on September 7.

After the landing, the rover carry out experiments on moon’s surface for one lunar day, which is equal to 14 earth days? The mission life of the lander is also one lunar day, while the orbiter will continue its mission for a year.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission aims to expand the knowledge about the moon, leading to a better understanding of its origin and evolution.

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