Indian spacecraft launched last month is now orbiting moon

NEW DELHI (AP) — An unmanned spacecraft India launched last month began orbiting the moon yesterday as it approaches the lunar south pole to study previously discovered water deposits.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)said it successfully manoeuvred Chandrayaan-2, the Sanskrit word for “moon craft”, into lunar orbit, nearly a month after it left Earth. The mission is led by two female scientists.

Chandrayaan will continue circling the moon in a tighter orbit until reaching a distance of about 100 kilometres from the moon’s surface.

The lander will then separate from the orbiter and use rocket fuel to brake as it attempts India’s first moon landing on a relatively flat surface between two craters in the south polar region on September 7 — an area where no moon landing has been attempted before.

The mission is on track even though the launch was delayed by a week.

The success rate of landing on the moon is only 37 per cent, ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan said in a news conference.

When the semi-autonomous lander uses artificial intelligence to land on its own, after matching the landing spot with pre-loaded images of the region, “it’ll be a mix of feeling, of happiness and tension and more anxiety,” Sivan said, likening it to a “bridegroom separated from the parents’ house”.