ISRO’s much-awaited benchmark mission to moon – the Chandrayaan-2, has once again faced a launch postpone as the space agency has confirmed that the lunar probe will not be launched on January 3, 2019.
Speaking about the reason for delay, ISRO chairman Sivan K. said that the rocket launches made in the second half of 2018 affected the mission schedule. Sivan said that they will be able to decide on the launch date within 10-12 days, and could possibly be within couple of months. “Unlike a mission to Mars, we will not have to wait for two years to launch in case the window passes. But we are confident of launching it in the first window. Work is progressing well,” Sivan said.
The mission focuses on soft landing on the Moon and the unloading of a rover to study and take measurements from the lunar surface. Initially, ISRO had made a deal with Russian space agency Roscosmos for supplying the lunar lander, but eventually, the deal fell through and ISRO decided to go solo to the moon. Currently, the preparations for launching Chandrayaan-2 in a window from the first week of January to February 16 are undergoing, regardless of the final decision of exact launch date – making it the second lunar reach after successful launch of Chinese lunar probe Chang’e 4, which will land on moon between January 1 and 3.
Both Chang’e 4 and Chandrayaan-2 are aimed to achieve “firsts on the lunar soil” targets, as the Chinese probe will be the first to land on the far or ‘dark’ side of the Moon – which is the hemisphere that always faces away from earth; whereas, the Indian lander Chandrayaan-2 will touch down in an unexplored area near the lunar South Pole on the other phase of earth’s only natural satellite. As per the plan, once successfully lifted off from Earth, the Chandrayaan-2 probe will travel to moon and would gradually descend from a height of 100 km to 18 km from the Moon’s surface. From there, the orientation will be changed in a way that the lander in a slightly horizontal for about 8.5 km, to ensure a soft landing.