See How India's Moon Lander Will Reach the Lunar Surface (Video)

As India's lunar lander prepares for an epic descent today (Sept. 6), the country's space agency released a video showing how it will attempt to make a soft touchdown.

Named Vikram, the lander launched to the moon with India's lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-2 (opens in new tab), on July 22. The two spacecraft will work together to send back more information about the moon, at a time when NASA and several other space agencies around the world are considering more human exploration on the lunar surface.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) expects that Vikram will touch down between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 7) India Standard Time. That will be between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130-2230 GMT) on Friday (Sept. 6). You can watch live coverage of the landing here at

Video: India's Vikram Moon Lander Explained (opens in new tab)
Related: India's Chandrayaan-2 Mission to the Moon in Photos (opens in new tab)

A still from the animation above shows India's Vikram lunar lander, part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, descending to the lunar surface. (Image credit: ISRO)

While the first part of the video goes step by step through Vikram's instruments, the action starts shortly after the 2-minute mark, when it shows how Vikram will make its descent. At an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers), Vikram will begin "rough braking" with four engines ignited. As the lander slows, it will scan the surface with an instrument called the Lander Position Detection Camera (LPDC) to make a safe approach.

Next comes the hovering stage, where Vikram will have two of its engines firing. At this point it will be roughly 1,300 feet (400 meters) above the surface and will begin its parabolic descent. The final stage of landing will be a gentle descent with the central engine on.

Vikram's work will have just begun once it arrives at the surface. If the landing is successful, it will deploy a small rover named Pragyan onto the lunar surface about four hours after touchdown. While the rover's deployment isn't shown in the animation above, the video shows the lander deploying its three scientific instruments

The first instrument to be deployed will be the Surface Thermo-physical Experiment (CHASTE), which will look at temperatures and conductivity within the lunar surface. Charged electrons on the moon will be examined using the Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA) payload. Meanwhile, a seismometer called ILSA (Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity) will be placed on the ground.

ISRO says both the orbiter and lander appear to be healthy as they prepare for the landing, which will be the country's first soft touchdown on the moon. In 2008, the Chandrayaan-1 (opens in new tab) orbiter successfully deployed the Moon Impact Probe, which crashed onto the surface as planned. The debris it generated helped show the presence of water on the moon for the first time.

NASA is planning to land humans on the moon again in 2024, with the help of commercial companies and interested international partners, using water and other resources to help cut down on the cost of sending people there. The last humans to walk on the moon left in December 1972.

Visit today for complete coverage of India's Chandrayaan-2 Vikram landing on the moon. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: