New Delhi, July 22, 2019: The giant heavy-lift rocket carrying India’s moon mission Chandrayaan 2 lifted off from its launch pad at Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota at 2:43 pm today. India’s space scientists had a narrow one-minute window for their second attempt at launching the moon mission today, a week after the mission was aborted 56 minutes before lift-off.
In visuals, scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s control room closely watched the rocket as it gained speed and headed towards the outer atmosphere, propelled by the massive thrust from the powerful 640-tonne ’Baahubali’ rocket.
Minutes later, the rocket successfully put Chandrayaan 2 into Earth’s orbit - and a booming applause reverberated inside the control room as the scientists who have been working hard for the mission congratulated one another, hugged and shook hands.
"I am extremely happy to announce that GSLV Mark 3 successfully injected the Chandrayaan 2 into orbit... It is the beginning of a historical journey for India... We fixed a serious technical snag and ISRO bounced back with flying colours," ISRO Chairman K Sivan said, drawing loud applause from the scientists gathered around him at the control centre.
The GSLV Mark 3 - ISRO’s largest and most powerful rocket - is 44 metres long or as tall as a 15-storey building. The 20-hour countdown for the launch of the Rs. 1,000-crore mission began Sunday evening at 6.43 pm.
The rocket propelled into space an orbiter, a lander ’Vikram’ (named after ISRO founder and eminent Indian scientist Vikram Sarabhai) and a moon rover ’Pragyaan’. Once the Vikram lander separates, it will head to a region on the moon that is little explored till date - most lunar landings have taken place in the northern hemisphere or in the equatorial region.
A mission by China landed in the northernmost part, followed by Russia’s Luna missions. Most of the American lunar landings, including Apollo missions, were in the Moon’s equatorial region.
The success of Chandrayaan 2 mission will make India the fourth country after the US, Russia and China to pull off a soft landing on the moon.
The mission was stopped 56 minutes and 24 seconds before its launch last Monday after a technical snag was discovered in the unmanned launch vehicle system. ISRO said the decision was taken "as a measure of abundant precaution".
After the soft landing on the moon, or as K Sivan terms it, the "15 minutes of terror", the rover will carry out research, including a thorough mapping of the moon’s resources, looking for the presence of water on the moon and clicking high resolution images as well.
The ISRO chairman has called Chandrayaan 2 the "most complex mission ever undertaken by ISRO".
Considering ISRO’s budget is less than 20 times that of USA’s NASA, a success story for the Rs. 1,000-crore moon mission, which cost less than Hollywood blockbuster ’Avengers: Endgame’, would be a giant boost for India’s space plans.