Published: Tue, July 23, 2019
Research | By Sheri Schwartz

India launches 'historic' flight bound for the moon

India launches 'historic' flight bound for the moon

Once the Chandrayaan-2 is in the correct orbit around the moon, the lunar lander should separate away from the main spacecraft and attempt a controlled descent to the moon's surface at the South Pole. The countdown on 15 July was stopped 56 minutes before launch after a "technical snag was observed in [the] launch vehicle system", according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). "It will land on the South Pole".

There was applause in the Isro control room minutes after the launch of the most complex mission ever attempted by India's space agency, as the rocket took off towards the outer atmosphere.

The success of the Chandrayaan 2 mission makes India the fourth country, followed by the US, Russia, and China to pull off a soft landing on the moon. "As a measure of abundant precaution, #Chandrayaan2 launch has been called off for today", said Isro on July 15.

Previously, India flew the Chandrayaan-1 mission to the Moon in 2008. "Later, thrusters on board will enable descent of the spacecraft into a lunar orbit - the lander will detach from the orbiter and choose a right spot for landing even as it applies brakes to soften the landing", officials added. Despite the delay in launch, ISRO is predicting Chandrayaan-2's lander will touch down as scheduled, no later than September 7. At some point, initiatives of immediate practical value, like the launch vehicle industry, must vie for funds with prestige projects like a manned lunar mission, and strategic considerations would have to be carefully calibrated.

The Chandrayaan-2 lander is named Vikram, after Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space program. India does not have a rocket powerful enough to hurl Chandrayaan-2 on a direct path. Eventually, it will break free of Earth's pull and enter orbit around the Moon, then land softly at the south pole.

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma had also on Sunday said,"India's space journey began with Pt Nehru, and took a giant leap in 1975 with the launch of Aryabhat, led by charismatic PM Indira Gandhi".

The mission follows up on the first Chandrayaan mission, which was launched in 2008 and conducted observations from lunar orbit for almost 10 months.

President Ram Nath Kovind described the country's second Moon Mission as a "proud moment" for all Indians.

Rajnath Singh also lauded the efforts, " Congratulations to ISRO scientists on flawless launching of Chandrayaan-2. India's 2019/20 budget for space research stood at Rs124.7 billion ($1.81 billion), rising by some 75% since 2014. The country plans to send three astronauts into Earth's orbit in 2022 and set up its own space station by 2030. The nation, which sent an orbiter to Mars at about a 10th of the cost of NASA's Maven probe, launched a record 104 satellites in 2017.

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