India Aborts Moon Launch 1 Hour Before Liftoff

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SRIHARIKOTA —  The launch of India’s second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-2, was called off due to a technical snag less than an hour before blast-off on Monday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

The countdown to the launch of Chandrayaan-2, on board the GSLV Mk-III rocket, was scheduled for 2.51 am. It was stopped 56 minutes and 24 seconds before lift-off at 1.55 am following an announcement from the Mission Control Centre.

Confusion prevailed for several minutes before ISRO came out with an official confirmation about the launch being cancelled.

“A technical snag was observed in the launch vehicle system at t-minus 56 minutes. As a measure of abundant precaution Chandrayaan 2 launch has been called off for today,” ISRO Associate Director (Public Relations) B R Guruprasad said.

A revised launch date will be announced later, he added.

“Launch is called off due to technical snag. It is not possible to make the launch within the (launch) window. (A new) launch schedule will be announced later,” another ISRO official said, 

India’s space agency had earlier scheduled the launch in the first week of January but shifted it to July 15.

The lift-off of the three-component spacecraft weighing 3,850 kg and comprising an orbiter, the lander and the rover was scheduled from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) here.

President Ram Nath Kovind was in Sriharikota to witness the launch.

The Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to explore the uncharted lunar south pole, 11 years after ISRO’s successful first lunar mission– Chandrayaan-1, which made more than 3,400 orbits around the moon and was operational for 312 days till August 29, 2009.

The Rs 978 crore Chandrayaan-2, on-board the heavy-lift rocket Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle GSLV-Mk-III, nicknamed Baahubali, would have taken 54 days to accomplish the task of landing on the Moon through meticulously planned orbital phases.

After a full dress rehearsal last week, the countdown for the mission commenced at 6.51 am on Sunday and scientists had undertaken various stages of propellant filling to power the rocket ahead of the launch.

Billed as the most complex and prestigious mission ever undertaken by the ISRO since its inception, Chandrayaan-2 would have made India the fourth country to soft land a rover on the lunar surface after Russia, the United States and China. 

Despite the odd hour, enthusiasts of all ages reached the island, off the coast of Andhra Pradesh, some of them travelling long distances on two wheelers, to witness the moment.

The men, women and children waiting at a special gallery, set up recently by ISRO, left the venue disappointed as the mission did not go as expected.

ISRO had set up the gallery– inaugurated by Chairman K Sivan a few months ago– on the sprawling Sriharikota premises as the number of spectators turning up to witness launches has been increasing over time. 

“We do not know what happened but we are disappointed. I hope they rectify whatever the issue is. We will come back again to witness the launch,” said a young boy, holding aloft the tricolour, who had come with his family. 

A man standing nearby said it was good scientists had called off the launch when the rocket was still on the ground.

“If it had gone into space and something had happened there, the huge amount of money spent on the mission would have gone to waste,” he said.


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