US scientists, including those from NASA, eagerly await the Vikram lander's, part of India's ambitious lunar mission Chandrayaan-2, historic-soft landing on the Moon in the early hours of Saturday. The US space community believes that the landmark mission would help them enrich their understanding of the Moon's geology. A successful landing will make India the fourth country after Russia, the US, and China to achieve a soft-landing on the Moon. With India being the first country to launch a mission to the unexplored lunar South Pole.
The Indian Embassy in the United States has arranged a live screening and presentation on Vikram's landing on Friday. The community of space scientists from NASA will be watching every minute of the historic landing. The Vikram lander is expected to touch down on the Moon between 1 am and 2 am IST. The Moon's South Pole, where India would be landing its six-wheeled rover named Pragyan, could become one of the most important places on the Moon's surface, said Space.Com, adding that it will become the southernmost spot on the Moon to be visited by a spacecraft.
"The Chandrayaan-2 landing site will be in completely new terrain," Brett Denevi, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory told scientific journal Nature. Chandrayaan-2 carries 13 instruments from India and one from NASA. Denevi told Nature that she was most excited about the orbiter's imaging infrared spectrometer, which will map light reflected off the lunar surface over a wide range of wavelengths. This information can then be used to identify and quantify surface water, which absorbs light strongly at certain wavelengths, she said.
For Dave Williams, a planetary scientist at NASA, the Chandrayaan-2 mission would help answer several crucial questions. "We've surveyed the Moon pretty extensively from orbit, but there's nothing like actually being there," he reportedly said. "The Chandrayaan-2 mission is a point of national pride for India", he went on to add.
A popular international publication noted on Thursday that Chandrayaan-2 was "relatively inexpensive" compared with other space missions. "The South Pole of the Moon is interesting to scientists because of the possibility that water ice could be there. That could be useful for future Moon habitation and the production of fuel to later explore Mars. Scientists also want to look for deposits of helium-3, potentially a future energy source for Earth," the publication said. Another international publication noted that "India is one step closer to achieving its space superpower ambitions," adding that the country will join the elite club of the United States, China and Russia that have made a soft landing on the Moon.