Glitch-hit Isro may soon have another go at moon

Glitch-hit Isro may soon have another go at moon

People who gathered at a gallery to witness the launch of Chandrayaan-2 in Sriharikota on Monday. PTI

Calling off the much-awaited Chandrayaan-2 launch early Monday morning, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) made a statement of reassurance: The next launch date will be announced soon. This could be as early as Wednesday.

Once all mandatory checks are completed, the next launch might happen in July itself. Although Isro is yet to make an official announcement, the launch could happen early next week, sources indicated.

The space agency does not want to miss the launch window this month, as the next one is at least another two months away.

The launch of India’s most ambitious lunar mission was called off due to a ‘technical glitch’ at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. Keeping a close watch on the launch vehicle, GSLV Mk III, during the final countdown, Isro spotted a technical snag while the cryogenic fuel was being loaded. The countdown was halted 56 minutes and 24 seconds before the scheduled launch at 2.51 am.

To investigate what really happened, the fuel loaded will now have to be emptied and the launch vehicle tested thoroughly. 

Minutes after the countdown was halted, Isro had issued an official statement attributing the suspension to a technical snag. But the implication was clear: That the space agency could not take any chances since the launch window was barely 10 minutes, between 2.51 am and 3.01 am.

In June, at a press meet in Bengaluru, Isro chairman K Sivan had explained that in case the July 15 launch was not possible, another date was technically possible in the same month. But this window would be too short, not more than a minute, all depending on the moon’s position in relation to the earth.

The suspension of Monday’s launch came a huge disappointment for hundreds of space buffs who had gathered at the gallery inside the Satish Dhawan Space Centre campus in Sriharikota. President Ram Nath Kovind was also at the venue to witness the grand spectacle.

Moon mission

The Rs 1,000-crore Chandrayaan-2 mission, equipped with an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, has been designed to soft-land on the lunar surface to analyse minerals, map the moon’s surface and dig deeper for water first spotted by Chandrayaan-1.

Scheduled to blast off on July 15, Chandrayaan-2 was to make a soft-landing 54 days later. Going by the original schedule, the Lander, Vikram was to accomplish the highly challenging soft-landing on September 6.

If the September 6 soft-landing had been accomplished as planned, India would have become the fourth nation to do so, after the United States, Russia and China. Israel had made an unsuccessful attempt early this year.

Israel’s failure had forced Isro to take all precautionary measures and not take risks. An Isro official had articulated this when he noted that Israel, despite being a technologically advanced nation, failed to clear the final, critical hurdle.