Chandrayaan-2 lifts off with a billion dreams

Chandrayaan-2 lifts off with a billion dreams

GSLV Mark III, the rocket that is being used for the Chandrayaan-2 mission takes off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota, on Monday. | DH Photo: Pushkar V

Carrying a billion dreams, Chandrayaan-II, India’s second lunar spacecraft, lifted off successfully from the second launchpad at the Sathish Dhawan Space Centre here, 100 kms from Chennai, on Monday afternoon.

GSLV-MKIII-MK1, the launch vehicle known as Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) ‘Baahubali’, launched Chandrayaan-II at 2.43 pm and placed the lunar satellite in the intended orbit a little over 16 minutes after the successful lift-off.

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As the loudspeakers at the ISRO control centre here blared the announcement that the “launch was successful” and that Chandrayaan-II sent its first signal at 18:33 minutes after the take-off, scientists led by ISRO chief K Sivan broke into celebrations.

“Today is a historical day for space and science and technology in India. I am extremely happy to announce that GSLV-Mark III vehicle has successfully injected Chandrayaan-II in the defined orbit… in fact the orbit is 6,000 km more than what was intended,” Sivan announced amid loud cheers from scientists, even as thousands of general public watched the launch from the visitors’ gallery a few kilometres away from the mission control.

Since the orbit achieved is much more than what was originally intended by the scientists, the satellite will have more life, more fuel and more time to play with manoeuvres.

“It is the beginning of a historical journey of India towards moon and to land at a place near South Pole to carry out scientific experiments to explore unexplored (areas),” Sivan added and announced that the satellite is expected to make a soft landing near the South Pole of the Moon on the landing day (which would tentatively fall on September 7).

The lunar mission being carried out a cost of Rs 978 crore, billed as the cheapest in the globe so far, is the second after India successfully launched its first unmanned spacecraft to the moon, Chandrayaan-I, in 2008. Monday’s successful launch came exactly a week after the ISRO aborted the launch of Chandrayaan-II just 56 minutes before the launch on July 15 due to a ‘technical snag’.

The mission, sanctioned by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008, includes a lunar orbiter, lander and rover, all developed indigenously by scientists in India. Chandrayaan 2 will use the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to attempt a soft landing in a high plain between two craters — Manzini’s C and Simpelius N — at a latitude of about 70 degrees south.

The lander, named after father of India’s space programme Vikram Sarabhai, is designed to touch down on the lunar South Pole, a feat none of the space-faring nations have achieved so far. Navigating large distances accurately, preventing damage due to ‘lunar’ dust, conducting Trans Lunar Injection and the soft-landing pose huge risks for Vikram.

But if it succeeds, India will emerge as only the fourth nation to accomplish the soft-landing only after the US, China and Russia. Among the Vikram Lander’s payloads is an instrument to check lunar seismic activity around the landing site. Thermal conductivity experiments and temperature gradient trials are also part of the Lander’s tasks.