India’s lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 is scheduled to make a soft-landing on the surface of the moon between 1.30 am and 2.30 am on Saturday. The manoeuvre to land the rover on the Moon’s surface without any injury will be “15 minutes of terror” even for top scientists at Indian Space Research Organisation, the space agency’s Director K Sivan told NDTV.

“It is like suddenly somebody comes and gives you a newborn baby in your hands,” he told the news channel. “Will you be able to hold without proper support? The baby will move this way that way but we should hold it. It like that, the lander will go this way or that but at the same time it has to be brought just like a baby.”

The moon lander, Vikram, separated from the orbiting spaceship on Monday and has already performed two manoeuvres to lower its altitude. The lander will touch down on the moon’s south polar region, and the rover is likely to roll out between 5.30 am and 6.30 am, reported PTI. The landing will be telecast live from 1.10 am on Doordarshan, and streamed on ISRO’s website and on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Other landers avoid the south and prefer to remain around the equator because the moon gets the most sunlight there. This light powers the solar panels of landers and rovers as they explore the lunar surface. On the south side, daylight lasts for 14 days, and then darkness falls for the next 14. Pragyan is not likely to survive the darkness or the cold of the lunar night, and must complete its explorations within two weeks of landing.

“This is a very very complex process, and it is new to us, even for the people who have already done it, every time, it is a complex process,” Sivan told NDTV. “Here we are doing for the first time, so it will be 15 minutes of terror for us.”

The ISRO chief told PTI that everything was going according to the plan. However, a senior official told the news agency that there was lot of anxiety in the minds of the Chandrayaan-2 team “because it is a very complex operation and we are doing it for the first time”.

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If the mission is successful, India will become the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the moon after the United States, Russia and China.

Former American astronaut Jerry Linenger said the entire world had its eyes glued to Chandrayaan-2. “And so I guess I would just put this caveat out there that getting to the moon, having that lander separate from the orbiter is already a fantastic accomplishment that everybody in India should be proud of, and especially the people that were directly involved in making that all happen,” he told PTI.

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