India was set to perform the first step toward its historic first moon landing with it its launch of the Chandrayaan-2 today. However, the move was otherwise postponed due to technical difficulties.
Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to launch at 02:51 local time on Monday (21:21 GMT Sunday) from Sriharikota space station in India’s eastern coast. The launch was stopped minutes at 56:24, only 36 minutes away.
“A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at T-56 minute. As a measure of abundant precaution,
#Chandrayaan2 launch has been called off for today,” the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said in a tweet momentarily after media was blocked.
Furthermore, the agency told that the delay was due to an abundance of precaution. ISRO Chief, K Sivan, said this was “the most complex space mission ever to be undertaken by the agency.”
Although a new launch date is set to be announced soon, the 10-minute backup window on Tuesday would seem most likely for the ISRO to opt for the Chandrayaan-2.
So far, India’s Chandrayaan-2 is touted to be the country’s most ambitious space mission to date with its goal of making a soft landing on the moon along with a lander and orbiter aboard its most powerful rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III), which weighs 640 tonnes and stands at 44 meters (144ft).
To achieve such goal, India has devised its hardware and technology that would allow them to explore the moon’s hardly-explored south pole. This serves as an interesting location for space exploration since it was theorized that the craters on that side of the moon are permanently shadowed, which could hold water ice — a vital resource for future space exploration.
Through a team of nearly 1,000 engineers and scientists, the team developed their lander, orbiter, and rover aside from its powerful GSLV Mk-III launcher — a task that the United States is currently developing.
Initially, the ISRO plans to get the Chandrayaan-2 into the moon’s orbit by September by which it will deploy its lander called Vikram, named after Dr. Vikram Sarabhai who was considered as the Father of the Indian space program. Vikram is also designed to function for one lunar day.
After then, it will make a soft landing of its rover, which a 27 kilogram, six-wheeled robotic vehicle named Pragyan that can travel up to 500 meters and leverages solar energy for its functioning.
There will also be the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter that will be able to communicate with the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu, Karnataka as well as the lander Vikram. The mission life of the Orbiter is one year, and it will be placed in a 100X100 km lunar polar orbit.
Overall, the mission costs about $150 million to complete, which is largely encouraged by the first lunar mission by the ISRO back in 2008 with the Chandrayaan-1.
Though the Chandrayaan-1 did not make a lunar landing, it was able to provide one of the most in-depth probes on the existence of water on the moon’s surface and a first using radars.
If successful, India will join the other three countries who achieved the feat, including the United States, Russia, and China. Furthermore, aside from national pride and achieving a new milestone for the ISRO, successfully completing the unmanned mission will allow the agency for manned flights as early as 2022.
Interestingly and historically, the Chandrayaan-2 is led by women namely Vanitha Muthayya, head of the mission as Project Director, and Ritu Karidhal as the mission director.
Specifically, both women have proved their capabilities in the past. Vanitha has worked with the Chandrayaan-1 with her data-handling expertise and has effective managerial skills. This time, she is overseeing the mission from start to finish. While Karidhal has worked with India’s Mars Orbital Mission in 2013 and will now oversee the spacecraft’s insertion into the lunar orbit.
On the other hand, it is quite interesting since India continues to be a very sexist country whereas they are known to have very misogynist culture. “Women power is powering India’s Moon ambitions,” Dr. Sivan said, adding that at Isro, “women and men are all equal. Only talent matters – not the gender.”