India is returning to the moon. A decade after Chandrayaan-1, the historic probe that first discovered water molecules on lunar soil, the country is poised to send Chandrayaan-2 back to the Earth's only permanent natural satellite.
According to the (ISRO), the mission has three modules: an orbiter, a lander named Vikram, and a rover named Pragyan. The mission, initially expected to launch in April, will now leave Earth's orbit during a window between July 9 and July 16. The spacecraft will take off from Sriharikota, an island off India’s southeastern coast, with an expected moon landing on September 6.
The spacecraft will be carried into space by a (GSLV Mk III) rocket, also developed by the ISRO.
This is the latest launch date for Chandrayaan-2, a project that has seen multiple delays. Originally meant to launch in 2013, the mission hit its earliest snags a year prior with technical from a Russian-built lander. When the problems continued through 2015, the ISRO decided to pull out of the deal and . The new lander, Vikram, is Vikram Sarabhai, widely seen as the .
The spacecraft will carry 13 individual payloads, with three in the rover Pragyan (whose name means "Wisdom" in Sanskrit) and 10 onboard Vikram. In an interview with the Times of India, ISRO chief Dr. Kailasavadivoo Sivan of what the mission would look like on the surface.
"Once Vikram lands on the lunar surface on September 6, rover Prayan will come out of it and roll out on the lunar surface for 300 to 400 meters (984 feet to 1312 feet)," Sivan said. "It will spend 14 Earth days on the moon carrying out different scientific experiments."
Pragyan will be able to analyze the lunar surface and send the data and images back to Earth within 15 minutes, according to Sivan.
With Chandrayaan-2, the ISRO is trying to build on its previous discoveries. The mission is set to land near the moon's south pole, where much of the body's ice water is stored.
The country has been in a competition of sorts to be the fourth nation in history to land a spacecraft on the moon. So far it's just been the United States, the former Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China. The latest Chinese mission, Chang'e-4, also landed near the Moon's south pole. There was a chance earlier this year for Israel to become number four, but its spacecraft experienced multiple failures in landing and crashed on the surface.
In the end, India's space officials believe that the myriad delays will increase Chandrayaan-2's chance of success. All of that time has been spent investing in the mission.
“We saw Israel’s example and we don’t want to take any risk," an ISRO official The Hindu. "Despite Israel being such a technologically advanced country, the mission failed. We want the mission to be a success.”