The pressure was on: India’s moon mission, launched for the second time after an aborted first attempt, was going to either position India amidst the leading spacefaring nations, or become an embarrassing travesty
With thousands looking on, Chandrayaan-2, or “moon craft,” lifted off at 2:43 pm local time from a launch pad north of Chennai.
Last week’s failed mission was blamed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on a technical error. The agency aborted the mission just 56 minutes before launch.
With today’s successful launch, ISRO chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan said: “It is the beginning of a historical journey of India towards the moon, and to land at a place near the south pole to carry out scientific experiments to explore the unexplored.”
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on today: “The launch of #Chandrayaan-2 illustrates the prowess of our scientists and the determination of [1.3 billion] Indians to scale new frontiers of science.”
The mission will include a lunar south pole landing on September 7. If the lander touches down successfully, India will join the short list of nations that have achieved moon landings – Russia, China and the US. Notably, the Chandrayaan-2 project director and navigation specialist are women.
The moon race is on now: in January, China successfully landed the Chang’e-4 spacecraft of the dark side of the moon. Israel launched Beresheet to the moon – although it crashed after an engine failure. The US plans to put astronauts on the moon by 2024.
ISRO’s plans are far-fetched: after exploring the chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface – as well as the search for water, previously confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission, India plans to send astronauts into space by 2022.
Photo credits: ISROKat Jones