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India’s second moon mission ‘Chandrayaan-2’ left the earth’s orbit early on Wednesday (August 14), 23 days after being launched on July 22. It is moving towards the moon following the successful completion of a crucial manoeuvre by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The space agency said it has carried out a manoeuvre called ‘Trans Lunar Insertion’ (TLI) at 2:21 am on Wednesday, following which the spacecraft has successfully entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory.

 “Trans Lunar Insertion (TLI) manoeuvre was performed today (August 14, 2019) at 0221 hrs IST as planned. Today (August 14, 2019) after the Trans Lunar Insertion (TLI) manoeuvre operation, #Chandrayaan2 will depart from Earth’s orbit and move towards the Moon (sic),” it said.

The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is expected to reach the moon’s orbit on August 20 and land on lunar surface on September 7.

“During the final orbit rising of the spacecraft around the earth, the liquid engine was fired for about 1203 seconds. With this, Chandrayaan-2 entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory. Earlier, the spacecraft’s orbit was progressively increased five times between July 23 and August 6, 2019,” ISRO added.

“The health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Byalalu, near Bengaluru. Since its launch on July 22, 2019 by GSLV MkIII-M1 vehicle, all systems onboard Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft are performing normal,” the space agency said.

The spacecraft will approach the moon on August 20 and then the spacecraft’s liquid engine will be fired again to insert it into lunar orbit, the ISRO said.

“Following this, there will be four orbit maneuvers to make the spacecraft enter its final orbit, passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the moon’s surface,” it said.

In a giant leap for the country’s ambitious low-cost space programme, ISRO’s most powerful three-stage rocket GSLV-MkIII-M1 had launched the spacecraft into the orbit of the Earth on July 22 from the spaceport of Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

According to ISRO, after 13 days of Moon-bound orbit phase, the lander ‘Vikram’ carrying rover ‘Pragyan’ will separate and after another few days of orbiting will soft land on September 7 in the South Pole region of the Moon, where no country has gone so far, according to the ISRO.

If successful, the mission will make India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to pull off a soft landing on the Moon.

According to the ISRO, the mission objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to develop and demonstrate the key technologies for end-to-end lunar mission capability, including soft-landing and roving on the lunar surface.

It also aims to further expand the knowledge about the moon through a detailed study of its topography, mineralogy, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics and atmosphere, leading to a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the moon, the space agency had said.

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