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Watch India try to land a spacecraft intact on the Moon for the first time
 
 
This afternoon, September 6th, India will attempt a significant first for the nation: landing a vehicle intact on the surface of the Moon. If successful, India will become the fourth country to put a spacecraft on the lunar surface, joining the United States, Russia, and China.

The landing is part of India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission. Launched in late July, the mission sent multiple robotic spacecraft to the Moon: an orbiter that will study the lunar surface from above and a lander that will carry a rover to the ground to characterize the Moon’s geography. The lander and rover are headed to a particularly tantalizing place: the Moon’s south pole. The goal is to learn more about the materials that might be lurking in this relatively unexplored region of the Moon, such as potential water ice.

All three spacecraft traveled together to the Moon and inserted themselves into lunar orbit on August 20th. A couple of weeks later, the lander and orbiter separated, and the lander has been getting closer to the lunar surface ever since. Sometime between 3:30PM and 4:30PM ET this afternoon, the lander will ignite its engine and begin its powered descent to the surface. Once that firing begins, the landing should occur about 30 minutes later. The rover will make its way out of the lander about four hours later, sometime between 8PM and 9PM ET.