India launches Chandrayaan-3 lander towards the lunar south pole

BENGALURU (Reuters) – India’s space agency on Friday launched a rocket that sent a spacecraft into orbit and toward a planned landing next month on the moon’s south pole, an unprecedented feat that will cement India’s status as a major space power.

The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) LVM3 launch rocket lifted off from the country’s main spaceport in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh on Friday afternoon, leaving behind a plume of smoke and fire.

About 16 minutes later, ISRO mission control announced that the rocket had successfully placed the Chandrayaan-3 lander into Earth orbit which will send it on a loop towards landing on the lunar surface next month.

If the mission is successful, India will join a group of three other countries that have managed controlled moon landings, including the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft will also be the first to land at the moon’s south pole, an area of ​​particular interest to space agencies and private space companies due to the presence of water ice that could support a space station in the future.

The rocket lifted off from India’s main space port at 2:35 pm local time (0905 GMT). More than 1.4 million people watched the launch on ISRO’s YouTube channel, many of whom offered congratulations and the patriotic slogan “Jai Hind” (Victory to India).

India’s long-awaited moon mission Chandrayaan-3 has been scheduled to launch on July 14, 2023.
The Indian Space Research Organization logo is seen in this illustration taken on May 1, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

In 2020, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission successfully deployed an orbiter but the lander and rover were destroyed in a crash near where Chandrayaan-3 would attempt to land.

Chandrayaan, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, includes a two-meter (6.6-foot) long lander designed to deploy a rover near the lunar south pole, where it is expected to remain operational for two weeks in a row. experiments.

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The Islamic Organization for Space Research said the moon landing is expected on August 23.

The launch is India’s first major undertaking since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced policies to stimulate investment in space launches and satellite-based businesses.

Modi had earlier said on Twitter that the moon mission would “carry the hopes and dreams of our nation”.

“As Mother India enters the next 25 years, she pledges to play a leading global role in the emerging world scenario,” Deputy Minister of State for Science and Technology Jitendra Singh said at an event at the spaceport to celebrate the launch.

Since 2020, when India opened up to private launches, the number of space startups has more than doubled. Late last year, Skyroot Aerospace, whose investors include Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, launched India’s first privately built rocket.

(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru); Editing by Kevin Krolicki, Jamie Fried, and Mark Heinrichs

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