India aborts Chandrayaan-2 launch an hour before blast off

Wednesday 17th July 2019 06:46 EDT

India called off the launch of much awaited second lunar mission scheduled on 15 July shortly before the lift-off citing a technical snag. The spacecraft which was intended to soft-land on the far side of the moon delayed its bid to become only the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission is part of India’s ambitious space programme, and its success would have propelled India into rarefied company - Russia, the United States and China are the only countries to have landed craft on the Moon. President Ram Nath Kovind was present at the Sriharikota space centre for the planned launch.

The spacecraft looked ready for launch on top of a Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle Mk III – India’s most powerful rocket with a height of 144 feet, weighing over 640 tons – from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, but countdown was halted 56 minutes and 24 seconds before the planned lift-off.

“A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at one hour before the launch,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said. “As a measure of abundant precaution, Chandrayaan-2 launch has been called off for the day. Revised launch date will be announced later.” However, the agency did not say when it would attempt the launch again, nor share any details about the technical issue.

Dr. K. Sivan, chairman of the ISRO, said at a news conference earlier that India has spent about $140 million on Chandrayaan-2 – designing and building almost all of its components domestically – and hailed the mission as one of the cheapest ever. A soft landing on the Moon would be a giant leap forward in India’s space programme. National pride is at stake as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to launch a crewed space mission by 2022. With nuclear-armed India poised to become the world's fifth-largest economy, the ardently nationalist government of Modi is eager to show off the country's prowess in security and technology.

India’s past successes in space have come from low-cost, homegrown technology that has helped to achieve breakthroughs such as the discovery of water on the surface of the moon. The space programme, a source of national pride, has allowed the country to develop more-accurate weather forecasting and improve navigation systems for its missiles.

Because of repeated delays, India missed the chance to achieve the first soft landing near the lunar south pole. China's Chang'e 4 mission landed a lander and rover there last January. Chandrayaan-1 mission orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of water. The ISRO wants its new mission's rover to further probe the far side of the moon, where scientists believe a basin contains water-ice that could help humans do more than plant flags on future manned missions.

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