The moment of truth has almost arrived for India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission to the moon. After blasting off in July and snapping some gorgeous moon photos on the way, the spacecraft is now ready to begin its final descent to the moon’s currently unexplored south pole. At 3:12 p.m. PT on Sept. 3 (3:42 a.m. Indian Standard Time), the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft successfully completed its final deorbit maneuver, after a 9-second burn of the propulsion system.
After several delays, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is now preparing to get its robotic explorers onto the surface of the moon. Currently, that historic landing, which would make India the fourth nation to achieve such a feat, is scheduled for around 1:30 p.m. PT on Sept. 6.
As with the launch, it is expected that ISRO will also provide a livestream of the landing but those details are yet to be finalized. Those looking to tune into the attempt will be able to do so on YouTube, through public broadcaster Doordarshan, below.
Chandrayaan-2 features three unique spacecraft: an orbiter, a lander and a rover. The orbiter and the lander, which contains the rover, successfully separated from one another on Sept. 2.
From here, the orbiter will continue to circle the moon while the lander commences its descent toward the lunar south pole on Friday. In total, the mission contains 12 payloads, with five on the orbiter and lander and two on the rover, and each robotic explorer will be looking to achieve key science goals with the limited time they have on the surface.
As the first mission to the moon’s south pole, there are a ton of discoveries to be made. Water ice deposits have been seen in this region of the moon and ISRO will attempt to better understand their composition.
The lander will operate for a single lunar day (around two Earth weeks), while the orbiter should operate for a year in a circular orbit. It will provide data on the moon’s surface and exosphere and, ultimately, enable further characterization of any water deposits at the lunar south pole.