The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has had a big week already. The group’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft successfully entered orbit around the Moon a few days ago, which is a major milestone for a mission that could make India the fourth country on Earth to successfully perform a soft landing on the Moon. Now, with the spacecraft comfortably orbiting Earth’s tiny neighbor, ISRO just released the first photo of the Moon snapped by the lander.
The photo was tweeted out by ISRO earlier today as the group gears up for the ultimate test, which will be landing near the Moon’s south pole.
It’s a fantastic shot, complete with labels for the Apollo crater as well as the Mare Orientale basin, and gives us a good idea of what the lander can see as it orbits the Moon. As ISRO notes in the photo’s description, the image was captured at a height of approximately 2,650 km from the surface, which is about 1,645 miles.
— ISRO (@isro) August 22, 2019
There’s still plenty of work to do for ISRO and the engineers involved with the mission, but they’re definitely rapidly approaching the finish line. The lander is expected to touch down on the Moon on September 7th, and the ISRO team will spend the next couple of weeks ensuring that the spacecraft is in a perfect position to make its final maneuvers.
If the group can pull it off, India will be the fourth country to perform such a feat. Had things gone more smoothly for Israel’s Beresheet lander, India would only be in a position to take the number five spot on the list, but since Beresheet crashed onto the lunar surface rather than safely landing, the number four slot is still up for grabs. India would join the United States, USSR, and China on the list.