The Vikram lander on Thursday successfully separated from the rest of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft and its propulsion module, kicking off the last phase of India’s Moon mission.
With this, the mission is one step closer to achieving its pivotal goal of soft-landing on the Moon on August 23. India aims to become the fourth nation to achieve this milestone.
Announcing the successful completion of this crucial stage, ISRO tweeted: “Lander Module (LM) is set to descend to a slightly lower orbit upon a deboosting planned for tomorrow around 1600 Hrs., IST.”
Now that the lander has separated from the propulsion module, it will complete the remainder of its journey to the moon on its own.
The anatomy of the spacecraft
The main spacecraft is made of two components. The lander module that also houses the rover is designed to travel to the moon, while the left over, called the propulsion module whose only job was to transport the lander module to the moon orbit, would continue to go around the moon for a few months, possibly even years.
So, what’s next for the Vikram lander?
After its on-board instruments, including three scientific payloads, are tested, the Lander will then carry out two critical orbit-reduction manoeuvres: first, to get into the circular 100×100 km orbit, and then further closer to the Moon in the 100×30 km orbit. It is from this 100×30 km orbit that the Lander will, on August 23, begin its final descent for touchdown on the Moon.
Earlier this week, the spacecraft inched closer to the moon when it brought itself into a near-circular 153×163 km orbit. This was the fourth and the final orbit-reducing manoeuvre performed by the spacecraft, which comprises a Propulsion Module and the lander component, which includes the rover.