India will launch its second moon mission ̵
Only the US, China and the former Soviet Union could do that.
The $ 150 million Chandrayaan-2 mission aims to collect data on water, minerals and rock formations on the Moon.
It is expected that Lander and Rover will land near the Moon South Pole in early September and become the first spaceship to land in the region.
The head of the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro), K Sivan, said it was "the most complex space mission ever undertaken by the agency." on the east coast of India.
The country's first lunar mission in 2008 – Chandrayaan-1 – did not land on the lunar surface but carried out the first and most detailed search for water on the moon using radar.
What is this mission about?
Chandrayaan-2 (Lunar 2) attempts a gentle landing near the little-researched south pole of the Moon.
The mission focuses on the lunar surface, searching for water and minerals and measuring moonquakes, among other things.
India is deploying its largest rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III). It weighs 640 tons (almost 1.5 times the weight of a fully loaded 747 jumbo jet) and is 44 meters high as a 14-story building.
The spacecraft weighs 2,379 kg and consists of three parts: an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
The orbiter, who has a one-year missionary life, will take pictures of the lunar surface. and "sniff" the weak atmosphere.
The lander (named after the founder of Isro Vikram) weighs about half and wears a 27kg lunar rover with instruments for analyzing the lunar soil in his belly. In his 14-day life, the rover (Pragyan – wisdom in Sanskrit) can drive up to half a kilometer from the lander and sends data and images back to Earth for analysis.
"India can hope to get the first selfies from the lunar surface as soon as the rover gets its job," Dr. Sivan.
A new frontier for India's space program
By the science writer Pallava Bagla
A Gentle Landing on Another planetary body – a feat that only three other countries have accomplished so far – would be a great technological achievement for Isro and India's space ambitions.
It would pave the way for future Indian missions to land on Mars and an asteroid. More importantly, India could send astronauts to the moon. India hopes to make a manned space flight by 2022.
India also wants to assert itself as a space dream – and national pride is rising to hoist its flag on the lunar surface.
A successful mission to the Moon would also be a victory for the ambitious Indian Space Agency, which has recently had a number of successes.
In 2014, a satellite was successfully launched into orbit around Mars, making it only the fourth nation. India made history in 2017 with the successful launch of 104 satellites on a single mission, surpassing the previous record of 37 satellites launched by Russia in 2014.
All eyes are on Isro again. Worldwide interest in India's thrifty moon mission is highest, according to Simonetta Di Pippo, director of the UN Office for Space Affairs.
"The studies of the mission on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental wealth, moon dexosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice will contribute to scientific advancement for all humanity," she says.
The Indian Space Community is nervous and dr. Sivan says, "it's in his stomach."
"Unknown unknowns can kill a mission, [although] no stone was left unturned to understand all the complexities."
How long is the journey to the moon?
The launch is just the beginning of a 384,000-kilometer journey – the robotic vehicle is expected to land on the moon 54 days later, on the 6th or 7th of September.
Isro decided to make a detour to exploit Earth's gravity, which can throw the satellite toward the moon. India has no rocket strong enough to hurl Chandrayaan-2 directly.
"There will be 15 awful minutes for scientists when the lander is released and flung to the south pole of the moon," says Dr. Sivan.
He explains that those who had controlled the spacecraft until then will not play a role at these crucial moments. The actual landing is an autonomous process that depends on the proper performance of all systems. Otherwise, the lander might hit the lunar surface.
Earlier this year, Israel's first lunar mission landed attempting to touch down.
Who is on the team?
Nearly 1,000 engineers and scientists have worked on this mission. For the first time, Isro has selected women to lead an interplanetary expedition.
Two women are heading for India's journey to the moon. While program director Muthaya Vanitha has funded Chandrayaan-2 over the years, it is directed by Ritu Karidhal.
"Women's power drives India's moon ambitions," Dr. Sivan, adding that at Isro, "women and men are all alike, only talent counts – not gender."
Reporting by Pallava Bagla, who has written extensively on India's space program.