The lander and rover are expected to touch down on the lunar south pole, at a site between two craters, on September 7. The lander was named Vikram after Indian space scientist Vikram Sarabhai and the rover is named Pragyan, the Sanskrit word for wisdom. If successful, India will become the fourth nation to safely land a spacecraft on the moon, after the former Soviet Union, the Unites States and China. The rover and lander will run out of power during the lunar night.
The orbiter is designed to operate for a year. The south pole is interesting to scientists not just because it hasn’t been studied much before, but also because lunar orbiters have seen evidence for water molecules in the soil. “My dear friends, today is a historical day for space and science and technology in India,” Dr. Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chair of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), said following the launch.