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India Delays Chandrayaan-2 Moon Lander Launch Over 'Technical Snag'

India has postponed the launch of Chandrayaan-2 — its biggest moon mission yet — due to a technical glitch that arose less than an hour before liftoff, the country's space agency said today.

The Indian Space Research Organisation called off the launch of Chandrayaan-2, a mission to send an orbiter, lander and rover to explore the moon's south pole, about 56 minutes before liftoff. The mission was scheduled to launch from ISRO's Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota today (July 14) from at 5:21 p.m. EDT (2121 GMT). It was early Monday local time when officials scrubbed the launch try. 

"A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at 1 hour before the launch. As a measure of abundant precaution, Chandrayaan-2 launch has been called off for today," ISRO officials wrote in a Twitter status update. "[A] revised launch date will be announced later."

Related: The Science of India's Audacious Chandrayaan-2 Moon Mission

ISRO officials did not clarify if the technical glitch was with the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft or their rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III-M1, which is India's most powerful booster.

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The $142 million Chandrayaan-2 is India's second lunar mission after the country's success with Chandrayaan-1, an orbiter launched 2008 that helped discovery the presence of water molecules on the moon. The new mission will also use an orbiter to study the moon from above, but will also drop a lander and rover to touch down at the south pole of the moon — something no spacefaring nation has ever done before.

If successful, India would become the fourth country (after the United States, Russia and China) to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the moon, and the first to reach the lunar south pole. The moon's south pole is a tantalizing target for scientists as the region's permanently shadowed craters can host water ice, a vital resource for future astronauts.

Editor's note: This story as been updated to include a new comment from the ISRO.

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Tariq Malik
Editor-in-Chief

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.