(BBC News) Chandrayaan-3, India’s latest Moon mission, has entered the lunar orbit, the country’s space agency has said.
The spacecraft with an orbiter, lander, and a rover lifted off on July 14. It will try to set the lander and rover on the lunar surface on August 23 or 24.
If successful, India will be the first country to land near the Moon’s little-explored south pole.
It will be only the fourth to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, after the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and China.
After the spacecraft orbited the Earth for more than a week, it was sent into the translunar orbit on Tuesday through a slingshot manoeuvre.
The third in India’s program of lunar exploration, Chandrayaan-3 is expected to build on the success of its earlier Moon missions.
It comes 15 years after the country’s first Moon mission, which discovered the presence of water molecules on the parched lunar surface and established that the Moon has an atmosphere during daytime.
Chandrayaan-2, which also included an orbiter, a lander, and a rover, was launched in July 2019, but it was only partially successful. Its orbiter continues to circle and study the Moon today, but the lander-rover failed to make a soft landing and crashed during touchdown.