Tue, Jul 16, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Launch glitch sets Indian moon agenda back


The Indian Space Research Organisation’s orbiter vehicle Chandrayaan-2 sits on a launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

India was forced to put on hold its second mission to the moon after discovering a glitch at the last moment, a setback to its ambitious plan to become the first nation to land on the south pole of Earth’s closest neighbor.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, was canceled 56 minutes before its scheduled launch yesterday because of “a technical snag,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

The ISRO said it would reschedule the launch.

A spokesman did not return calls seeking details about the new timeline and the glitch.

The scheduled landing on Sept. 6 would have added India to an elite club of the former Soviet Union, the US and China in making a soft landing on the moon, in which vehicles touch down without damage.

India has specialized in low-cost space launches since the early 1960s, when rocket sections were transported by bicycle and assembled by hand inside St Mary Magdalene Church in Thumba, a fishing village near the tip of the Indian peninsula.

The nation sent an orbiter to Mars at about one-10th of the cost of NASA’s Maven probe, and in 2017 it launched a record 104 satellites.

The launch of the moon mission, which was to take place at a tiny barrier island in southeastern India, attracted more than 100 reporters.

Two Chandrayaan modules — an orbiter and a lander — were stacked together inside a launcher equipped to lift heavy satellites into orbit, while a third module, the lunar rover, was supposed to roll out on landing and operate for at least 14 days on the moon’s surface.

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