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India successfully launches Moon mission after earlier scrub

Published Jul 22nd, 2019 4:05PM EDT
india moon mission
Image: ISRO

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India’s Space Research Organization expected to launch its Chandrayaan-2 mission last week, pushing the country one big step closer to becoming the fourth country to complete a soft landing on the Moon. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go to plan, and the mission had to be called off at the last moment due to what was described as a technical “snag.”

The space agency took a measured stance on the delay and noted that it would only reschedule the launch once it knew everything was working perfectly. It wasn’t clear exactly how long it might take, but it seems the issue wasn’t all that bad because the Chandrayaan-2 mission just kicked off in earnest.

As BBC reports, the launch took place at 2:43 p.m. local time from the Sriharikota launch site in India. The $145 million mission will aim to eventually land safely near the south pole of the Moon, and if the country pulls it off it will become the 4th country to accomplish such a feat. The others include the USSR, United States, and China.

It was a rare combination of circumstances that put India in a position to snag the number four spot on the prestigious Moon landing list. Earlier this year, Israel was poised to become the fourth country to perform a soft landing on the Moon and it was an errant manual command and an unfortunate reboot of its lunar lander in the moments before a would-be touchdown that caused the Beresheet spacecraft to slam into the surface rather than actually landing on it.

If India’s mission goes according to plan, the country’s spacecraft will orbit Earth in such a way that it gradually pushes itself closer and closer to the Moon. Eventually, it will break free of Earth’s pull and enter orbit around the Moon, then land softly at the south pole. There’s still plenty of work to be done before that happens, and space enthusiasts around the world are watching the mission closely, so expect to hear plenty more in the coming days.

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