Chandrayaan-2: India launches second Moon mission
(BBC) – India has successfully launched its second lunar mission a week after it halted the scheduled blast-off due to a technical snag.
Chandrayaan-2 was launched at 14:43 local time (09:13 GMT) from the Sriharikota space station.
India’s space chief said his agency had “bounced back with flying colours” after the aborted first attempt.
India hopes the $145m (£116m) mission will be the first to land on the Moon’s south pole.
The spacecraft has entered the Earth’s orbit, where it will stay for 23 days before it begins a series of manoeuvres that will take it into lunar orbit.
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If successful, India will become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the Moon’s surface. Only the former Soviet Union, the US and China have been able to do so.
The lift-off was broadcast live on TV and the space agency’s official social media accounts.
There was applause in the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) control room minutes after the launch, as the rocket took off towards the outer atmosphere.
For the first time in India’s space history, an interplanetary expedition is being led by two women – Muthaya Vanitha, the project director, and Ritu Karidhal, the mission director.
It is the most complex mission ever attempted by India’s space agency.
“It is the beginning of a historical journey of India towards the moon,” said Isro chief K Sivan in a speech after the launch.
He thanked and congratulated the nearly 1,000 scientists, engineers and other staff who had worked on the mission: “It is my duty to salute all the people who have done the work.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the mission for being “fully indigenous”.
The countdown on 15 July was stopped 56 minutes before launch after a “technical snag was observed in [the] launch vehicle system”, according to Isro. Indian media have reported that a leak from a helium gas bottle in the cryogenic engine of the rocket was to blame.
The fuel from the rocket was drained and the scientists resolved the glitch.