India aims to become 4th nation to land on moon

India will try to become just the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon, after its Chandrayaan 2 mission takes off Monday.

India’s orbiter vehicle for its Chandrayaan 2 moon mission is scheduled to spend 60 days in lunar orbit, space officials said. Photo by Indian Space Research Organization

India’s space agency is making final preparations over the next three days before liftoff from an island in the Bay of Bengal, officials said.

The spacecraft will take two months to get to the moon, first going into orbit 60 miles above the lunar surface before deploying the Vikram lander in September. Once the Vikram lands, it will release a six-wheel rover to study the environment.

“Chandrayaan 2 is an Indian lunar mission that will boldly go where no country has ever gone before — the moon’s south polar region,” the Indian Space Research Organization said.

“The aim is to improve our understanding of the Moon — discoveries that will benefit India and humanity as a whole.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hailed India’s space program, which has been around since the 1960s, as a point of national pride and a symbol of its emerging international prominence.

India space officials conducted a launch rehearsal Friday. Final preparations will begin Saturday with engineers turning on orbiter and lander power. The countdown will start Sunday with liftoff scheduled for 2:51 a.m. Monday.

If the mission succeeds, India will join the United States, Russia and China as the only nations to have made soft landings on the moon. Israel attempted to put down a lander in April, but a technical glitch sent its craft crashing into the lunar surface.

ByClyde Hughes