India successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft to the far side of the moon on Monday, a week after aborting the mission due to a technical problem.
Scientists at the mission control center burst into applause as the rocket lifted off in clear weather as scheduled at 2:43 p.m. from Sriharikota in southern India. K. Sivan, head of India’s space agency, said the rocket successfully injected the spacecraft into orbit.
The spacecraft — named Chandrayaan, the Sanskrit word for “moon craft” — is scheduled to land on the lunar south pole in September and send a rover to explore water deposits that were confirmed by a previous mission that orbited the moon.
India’s first moon mission orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of water. The country plans to send its first manned spaceflight by 2022.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India’s lunar program will get a substantial boost, writing on Twitter that the country’s existing knowledge of the moon “will be significantly enhanced.”
Sivan said at a news conference that the successful launch of the spacecraft was the “beginning of India’s historic journey” to the moon.
The launch of the $141 million moon mission a week earlier was called off less than an hour before liftoff due to a “technical snag.” Media reports said the launch was aborted after scientists from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) identified a leak while filling helium in the rocket’s cryogenic engine. The space agency neither confirmed nor denied the reports, saying instead that the problem had been identified and corrected.
The spacecraft is carrying an orbiter, a lander and a rover that will move around on the lunar surface for 14 earth days. It will take around 47 days to travel before landing on the moon.
India put a satellite into orbit around Mars in the nation’s first interplanetary mission in 2013 and 2014.
With India poised to become the world’s fifth-largest economy, Modi’s ardently nationalist government is eager to show off the country’s prowess in security and technology.
India successfully test-fired an anti-satellite weapon in March, which Modi said demonstrated the country’s capacity as a space power alongside the United States, Russia and China.
In 2017, ISRO broke a world record by simultaneously launching 104 satellites, which were successfully deployed into sun-synchronous orbits.
ISRO was founded in August 1969. The first indigenously designed Indian satellite was launched by the Soviet Union in 1975.
By Ashok Sharma for the Associated Press. Additional reporting by The Diplomat.