India's Chandrayaan-2 Spacecraft Leaves Earth Behind for Trip to the Moon

An image of the Pacific Ocean and Baja California captured by India's Chandrayaan-2 mission on Aug. 3, 2019.
An image of the Pacific Ocean and Baja California captured by India's Chandrayaan-2 mission on Aug. 3, 2019. (Image credit: ISRO)

India's Chandrayaan-2 mission has marked another milestone in its journey to the moon, leaving Earth's orbit and heading toward lunar orbit with an engine burn.

The burn, called a translunar injection, occurred on Aug. 13 (2:21 a.m. local time Aug. 14 at mission control in India) and lasted for 1,203 seconds, according to a statement from the Indian Space Research Organisation, which oversees the mission.

The spacecraft is due to enter lunar orbit in less than a week. The mission includes an orbiter as well as a lander and rover that will touch down in early September. The orbiter should continue working for about a year; the lander and rover will spend one lunar day (about two weeks here on Earth) studying the surface before succumbing to the frigid lunar night.

Related: India's Chandrayaan-2 Mission to the Moon in Photos

Chandrayaan-2 launched on July 22 and follows Chandrayaan-1, which India launched in 2008 and which orbited the moon for nearly a year. That spacecraft carried the instrument that identified frozen water ice below the surface of permanently shadowed craters near the moon's poles. The current mission aims to build on that discovery by landing farther south than any previous mission has.

If all goes well, Chandrayaan-2 will also make India the fourth country to successfully complete a soft landing on the moon, following the Soviet Union, the U.S. and China. Israel attempted to join those ranks in April with a mission called Beresheet, but the spacecraft crashed into the moon after a late anomaly in the landing process. 

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Meghan Bartels
Senior Writer

Meghan is a senior writer at and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.