BENGALURU: India’s space agency launched a rocket on Friday, sending a spacecraft into orbit and on its way to a planned landing on the lunar south pole next month, an unprecedented event that would strengthen India’s position as a major space power.
On Friday afternoon, the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) LVM3 launch rocket blasted out from the country’s major spaceport in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, sending a plume of smoke and fire in its wake
ISRO’s mission control confirmed about 16 minutes later that the rocket had successfully placed the Chandrayaan-3 lander into an Earth orbit that will send it looping toward a moon landing next month.
If the mission is successful, India will join the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China as the only countries to have successfully completed a controlled lunar landing.
The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft would also be the first to land in the lunar south pole, which is of particular interest to space agencies and private space firms due to the existence of water ice that may support a future space station.
At 2:35 p.m. local time (0905 GMT), the rocket lifted out from India’s main spaceport. Over 1.4 million people watched the launch on ISRO’s YouTube page, with many congratulating the space agency and shouting the patriotic cry “Jai Hind” (Victory to India).
ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission successfully launched an orbiter in 2019, but its lander and rover were destroyed in a crash near where Chandrayaan-3 would attempt to land.
Chandrayaan, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, features a 2-metre (6.6-foot)-tall lander meant to deliver a rover near the moon’s south pole, where it will undertake a series of experiments for two weeks.
The lunar landing is scheduled for August 23, according to ISRO.
The project is India’s first significant mission after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government established plans to encourage investment in space launches and satellite-related enterprises.
Modi previously stated on Twitter that the moon mission “will carry our nation’s hopes and dreams.”
“As Mother India enters the next 25 years, she pledges to play a leading global role in the emerging world scenario,” said Deputy Minister of State for Science and Technology Jitendra Singh at a launch celebration ceremony at the spaceport.
Since India opened up to private launches in 2020, the number of space firms has more than doubled. Skyroot Aerospace, whose backers include Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, launched India’s first privately made rocket late last year.