The lander — called Vikram, after Vikram A Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space program — will touch down between 6 and 7 am – AEST near the Moon’s South Pole with a six-wheeled rover inside.
The South Pole of the moon is interesting to scientists because of the possibility that water ice could be there. That could be useful for moon habitation and making fuel for exploring Mars. Scientists also want to look for deposits of helium-3, potentially a future energy source for Earth.
The lander and rover are expected to operate for a couple of weeks. They carry instruments that can determine the composition of moon rocks and make other measurements.
The mission launched July 22 after a number of delays. The spacecraft then took a slower, fuel-efficient path to the moon. Through repeated firings of its thrusters, Chandrayaan-2 stretched its elliptical orbit until it was captured by the moon’s gravity.
On Monday, the lander separated from the orbiter, and it has since been completing orbital maneuvers leading up to the hardest part of the mission: a soft landing.
Chandrayaan-2 was relatively inexpensive compared with other space missions. It cost less than $150 million, cheaper than the budget to make the 2014 Hollywood film “Interstellar.”