The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch the country’s second unmanned mission to the moon, the indigenously developed Chandrayaan-2, between July 9 and July 16 2019 this year on board a powerful Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)-Mark III rocket from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, 80 km north of Chennai. The Rs 800 crore mission’s lander is expected to make a soft-landing on the lunar surface on September 6 2019 on a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N — only the second mission so far by any country to land a rover near the Moon’s south pole. This will be India’s first mission to the moon wherein a lander will soft-land on the lunar surface. The October 2008-launched India’s first unmanned mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1’s only contact with the moon was to shoot one of its payloads, the Moon Impact Probe (MIP), into the lunar surface to raise a lunar dust from its surface — leading to the discovery of water molecules on surface of Earth’s only natural satellite, which caused much excitement among the world’s space scientists. ISRO has explained that Chandrayaan-2, has three modules — an orbiter, a lander (named ‘Vikram’ after ISRO’s first chairman, the visionary space scientist Dr Vikram Sarabhai), and a rover (named Pragyan). The orbiter and Vikram modules will be interfaced mechanically and stacked together as an integrated module and accommodated inside the GSLV MK-III launch vehicle. The rover Pragyan will be housed inside Vikram. ISRO scientists explained that after launch into an initial orbit around earth by GSLV MK-III, the integrated module will reach the moon’s orbit using the orbiter’s propulsion module. Subsequently, the lander Vikram will separate from the orbiter and soft-land at the predetermined site close to lunar south pole. Once landed, Pragyan will roll out of Vikram to carry out scientific experiments on the lunar surface. Instruments are also mounted on Vikram and Pragyan for carrying out scientific experiments. The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.