India on Monday successfully launched a spacecraft to land on the hitherto unchartered south pole of the Moon after an aborted attempt last week following a last minute technical glitch.
The unmanned Chandrayaan-2, meaning Moon vehicle in Sanskrit, lifted off at 2:43 p.m. local time, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said about the mission, which it noted was taking “a billion dreams to the Moon.”
The live-streaming of the launch showed the rocket, carrying the spacecraft, blasting off from the space center in southern India. Minutes later, the boosters got detached as the craft began its 384,000km (239,000-mile) 48-day journey to the Moon.
The spacecraft, the ISRO said, was successfully injected into the Earth’s orbit.
The landing, if successful, of the spacecraft in September will make India, the country of 1.3 billion people, the fourth nation joining an elite club after the former Soviet Union, the United States and China who have made a soft touchdown on the Moon.
According to India’s space experts, the $150 fully-indigenous million is to collect samples from the unknown territory of the Earth’s closest neighbor in search of water, minerals and helium-3 isotope – widely speculated future energy source.
The radioactive isotope is said to be available in abundance on the upper layer of the solid covering of the Moon, collected for billions of years by solar wind along the lunar regolith.
Among other things, the mission is also to measure moonquakes and deeper insights into the evolution of the satellite.
The success of the mission is significant for India that has been asserting itself as a global space power to be reckoned with and is planning to launch a manned space mission by 2022.
Besides, national pride also runs high. Hindu right-wing Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, boasts of such technological advancements as a marker of India’s global-power status.
“The launch of Chandrayaan-2 illustrates the prowess of our scientists and the determination of 130 crore (1.3 billion) Indians to scale new frontiers of science. Every Indian is immensely proud today,” Modi tweeted to his 48.7 million twitter followers.
“This mission will offer new knowledge about the Moon.”
Modi, in March this year, in the middle of the general elections that he won with a landslide majority, announced the successful test of the country’s first space weapon – a missile that can shoot down enemy satellites in space.
ISRO chief K. Sivan in his address to some 1,000 engineers and scientists who worked on this mission said: “Today is a historical day for space and science and technology in India” that marked “the beginning of a historical journey of India towards the Moon and land in a place near south pole."
ISRO’s former chairman G. Madhavan Nair, one of the most popular names in India’s rocket technology, told EFE, that the successful launch of the mission heralds a new chapter in India’s ambitious space program.
“It gives us a great sense of pride to see our space program making progress in leaps and bounds,” he said.
Nair, who led the space agency for six years from September 2003, said the complex mission of landing on the Moon will “surely assert India’s as one of the space powers in the world” and prove to be vital in the country’s “future bigger space missions”.
This is India’s second lunar mission after Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 that did not land on the Moon but used radars to carry out a detailed search for water on the satellite.
In the second mission, the space agency used its powerful rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III) that weighs 640 tonnes and is as high as a 14-storey building.
The spacecraft weighs 3.8 tonnes and has three distinct parts: an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
The lander is expected to make a controlled landing on Sep 7 and deploy a rover at the Moon’s south pole, according to the ISRO. The rover will analyze the lunar soil and will send data and images back to Earth. EFE-EPA