India is now targeting a July 22 launch of its first moon lander and rover after a weeklong delay due to a technical glitch.
The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Chandrayaan-2 moon mission will launch at 5:13 a.m. EDT (0913 GMT) on Monday from the agency's Satish Dhawan Space Center on the island of Sriharikota about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Chennai. The local time at liftoff will be 2:43 p.m. IST.
India initially tried to launch the Chandrayaan-2 mission Sunday (July 14) using its powerful Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III-M1 rocket, but they called off the attempt due to a "technical snag" an hour before liftoff. The glitch was reportedly related to a helium pressurization system on the rocket's cryogenic stage, according to Spaceflight Now.
ISRO officials convened a committee to investigate and fix the glitch, and that group has apparently wrapped up its work.
"The expert committee identified the root cause of the technical snag and all corrective actions are implemented," ISRO officials said in a status update. "Thereafter, the system performance is normal."
The $142 million Chandrayaan-2 mission is the successor to India's Chandrayaan-1 mission, which launched in 2008 and helped discover the presence of water molecules on the moon. But where Chandrayaan-1 was a single spacecraft, Chandrayaan-2 is made up of three vehicles: an orbiter, a lander called Vikram and a small rover called Pragyan.
If Chandrayaan-2 is successful, India will become the first country ever to land at the south pole of the moon, as well as the fourth country to soft-land a spacecraft on the lunar surface. Only NASA, Russia (as the former Soviet Union) and China have achieved the feat. A private Israeli spacecraft crashed into the moon during a failed landing attempt earlier this year in April.
According to its flight plan, Chandrayaan-2 will slowly make its way to the moon over several weeks, then release the Vikram lander to touch down near the south pole of the moon on Sept. 6. The Pragyan rover, tucked aboard Vikram, will then deploy and begin exploring the lunar south pole.
The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is designed to spend about a year studying the moon from orbit, scanning for water ice in the shadowed regions of the lunar south pole. The solar-powered Vikram lander and Pragyan rover will spend about one lunar day (the equivalent of 14 Earth days) studying the moon's surface up close.
India's Chandrayaan-2 launch comes as NASA (and space fans around the world) celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. A NASA laser retroreflector is riding aboard the Vikram lander as one of 13 science instruments on the Chandrayaan-2 mission.
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- ISRO: The Indian Space Research Organization