ISRO launches its second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched its second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, from Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota at its appointed time of 2.43 pm, a week after the lift-off was aborted at the eleventh hour due to a technical snag. The mission would see the lander and rover modules of the spacecraft make a soft-landing on the moon’s surface 48 days from now, on September 7.

Chandrayaan-2 lifted off onboard ISRO’s most powerful launcher, the 640-tonne rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III), from the country’s only launch site Satish Dhawan Space Centre. Thousands of people watched the launch as the heavy-lift rocket roared off into the skies.

The launcher of Chandrayaan-2, nicknamed ‘Bahubali’, measured 44metres in height. The three-stage vehicle is capable of launching 4-tonne class of satellites to the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). The 20-hour countdown to the lift-off, a mission which has been described as one of the most complex ever undertaken by the space agency, had begun on Sunday at 6.43pm.

India deferred its second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2 for the fifth time last Monday, roughly an hour before blast-off,  after scientists noticed a glitch in the launch vehicle, delaying its bid to become only the fourth country. The lunar landing mission was rescheduled for July 22 after scientists corrected the snag.

The Rs 978 crore project will follow Chang’e-4, launched by China, which in January became the first spacecraft to successfully land on the far side of the moon. Only three countries, the United States, the erstwhile Soviet Union and China, have successfully landed missions on the moon.

The 3,850kg Chandrayaan-2 consists of an orbiter that will circle the moon for about a year, taking images and testing the atmosphere; a lander named Vikram, after India’s space pioneer Vikram Sarabhai; and a rover named Pragyaan, which means wisdom in Sanskrit.

The Rs 375 crore GSLV-Mk III carrying the orbiter, lander, and rover will launch the Rs 603 crore Chandrayaan-2 into an Earth parking orbit 16 minutes into its flight. The distance between the Earth and the moon is about 3.844 lakh km.

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