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India’s first lunar lander is on its way to the moon

India’s first lunar lander is on its way to the moon
[Photo: ISRO]

Just days after the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon, India’s space agency successfully launched its first lunar lander bound for the moon. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) achieved a successful liftoff and injection into Earth’s orbit of its Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft early this morning.

The Chandrayaan-2 now begins its six-week journey to the moon. Once in the moon’s orbit, the Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to land on the moon’s surface in September. If that landing is successful, India will become only the fourth nation to ever land an intact vehicle on the moon. Previous nations that have done so include the U.S., Russia, and China.

In 2008 India sent the Chandrayaan-1 to the moon, where it achieved successful orbit and then launched a probe into the moon’s surface. From a scientific standpoint, the Chandrayaan-1 mission was a huge success. The probe it launched into the lunar surface found evidence of water ice on the moon’s south pole.

The goal of the Chandrayaan-2 is to land a lunar rover on the moon’s surface and keep it operating there for 14 days—which is equal to one lunar day. During that time, the Chandrayaan-2 lander will search the moon’s south pole to see just how much water ice could be contained there. If the amount found is significant, it could go a long way toward helping further lunar expeditions or even setting up a moon colony. The ice could be mined and turned into drinking water for human inhabitants or even converted to fuel for spacecraft.

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