BENGALURU, July 14 (Reuters) – The Indian Space Agency launched a rocket on Friday, sending a spacecraft into orbit and on its way to a planned landing at the moon’s south pole next month, an unprecedented feat that will advance India as a major space power.
The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) LVM3 launch vehicle blasted off from the country’s main space base in southern Andhra Pradesh on Friday afternoon, leaving a plume of smoke and fire.
About 16 minutes later, ISRO’s mission control announced that the rocket had succeeded in placing the Chandrayaan-3 lander into Earth orbit, before it could land on the moon next month.
If the mission is successful, India will join the group of three other countries that have managed a controlled lunar landing, including the US, the former Soviet Union and China.
Chandrayaan-3 will land first on the Moon’s south pole, an area of special interest to space agencies and private space companies because of the presence of water ice that could support a future space station.
The rocket blasted off from India’s main space station at 2:35 pm local time (0905 GMT). More than 1.4 million people watched the launch on ISRO’s YouTube channel, with many offering congratulations and patriotic chants of “Jai Hind” (Victory to India).
In 2019, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 program successfully deployed an orbiter, but its lander and rover were destroyed in an accident near the landing site of Chandrayaan-3.
Chandrayaan, which means “lunar vehicle” in Sanskrit, includes a 2-meter-(6.6-foot)-tall lander designed to position the rover near the moon’s south pole, which is expected to operate continuously for two weeks. Experiments.
Moon landing is expected on August 23, ISRO said.
The launch is India’s first major mission since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced policies to encourage investment in space launches and related satellite-based businesses.
Modi had earlier said on Twitter that the moon mission will carry the hopes and dreams of our nation.
“As Mother India enters the next 25 years, it promises to play a major role globally in the emerging world scenario,” Minister of State for Science and Technology Jitendra Singh said at an event at the space station.
Since 2020, when India opened up to private launches, the number of space startups has doubled. Late last year, Skyroot Aerospace, with its investors Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, launched India’s first privately built rocket.
(This story has been revised to say in paragraph 7 that Chandrayaan-2 was launched in 2019, not 2020)
Statement by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bangalore; Editing by Kevin Grolicki, Jamie Freed and Mark Heinrich
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