The landing module of India’s unmanned moon mission separated from the orbiter on Monday ahead of its planned touchdown on the moon’s south polar region this weekend, the space agency said.
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All the systems of orbiter and the lander are “healthy,” the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement.
Monday’s maneuver removed the lander from the orbiter’s top, where it had been sitting since the mission took off from southern India on July 22. The module has currently reached a distance of about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the moon’s surface, the space agency said.
The module will attempt India’s first moon landing on a relatively flat surface on Sept. 7 to study previously discovered water deposits. The roughly $140 million mission is known as Chandrayaan-2, the Sanskrit word for “moon craft.”
Chandrayaan-1 orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of water
Space agency chairman Dr. K. Sivan has said that landing on the lunar surface involves a lot of technical complexities — an event he described as “15 terrifying minutes.”
If India did manage the landing, it would be only the fourth country to do so after the U.S., Russia and China.
India plans to send humans into space by 2022.