An Indian spacecraft blazed its way to the far side of the moon Friday in a follow-up mission to its failed effort nearly four years ago to land a rover softly on the lunar surface, the country’s space agency said.
Chandrayaan-3, the word for “moon craft” in Sanskrit, took off from a launch pad in Sriharikota in southern India with an orbiter, a lander and a rover, in a demonstration of India’s emerging space technology. The spacecraft is set to embark on a journey lasting slightly over a month before landing on the moon’s surface later in August.
Applause and cheers swept through mission control at Satish Dhawan Space Center, where the Indian Space Research Organization’s engineers and scientists celebrated as they monitored the launch of the spacecraft. Thousands of Indians cheered outside the mission control center and waved the national flag as they watched the spacecraft rise into the sky.
“Congratulations India. Chandrayaan-3 has started its journey towards the moon,” ISRO Director Sreedhara Panicker Somanath said shortly after the launch.
India’s previous attempt to land a robotic spacecraft near the moon’s little-explored south pole ended in failure in 2019. It entered the lunar orbit but lost touch with its lander that crashed while making its final descent to deploy a rover to search for signs of water. According to a failure analysis report submitted to the ISRO, the crash was caused by a software glitch.
The $140-million mission in 2019 was intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits and were confirmed by India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.
Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-3, the word for “moon craft” in Sanskrit, blasts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, on July 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
Somanath said the main objective of the mission this time was a safe and soft landing on the moon. He said the Indian space agency has perfected the art of reaching up to the moon, “but it is the landing that the agency is working on.”
“Chandrayaan-3 scripts a new chapter in India’s space odyssey. It soars high, elevating the dreams and ambitions of every Indian,” Modi said in a tweet after the launch.
India is using research from space and elsewhere to solve problems at home. Its space program has already helped develop satellite, communication and remote-sensing technologies and has been used to gauge underground water levels and predict weather in the country, which is prone to cycles of drought and flood.
“This is a very critical mission,” said Pallava Bagla, a science writer and co-author of books on India’s space exploration, adding that India will require soft landing technology if it wants to attempt more missions to the moon.
Singh said that based on the current trajectory of growth, India’s space sector could be a trillion-dollar economy in the coming years.
As of April, India has launched 424 satellites for 34 countries, including Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The ISRO has earned approximately 1.1 billion rupees ($13.4 million) in the past five years from the launch of foreign satellites, the minister told India’s Parliament in December.