India races for launch fix after Moon mission aborted

AFP
July 16,2019

SRIHARIKOTA, India: Indian space chiefs pressed to quickly set a new date to launch a landmark moon mission after aborting one liftoff Monday just 56 minutes ahead of schedule, media reports said.A...

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SRIHARIKOTA, India: Indian space chiefs pressed to quickly set a new date to launch a landmark moon mission after aborting one liftoff Monday just 56 minutes ahead of schedule, media reports said.

A committee of experts was looking into the causes of the technical hitch that put back the bid to become just the fourth nation — after Russia, the United States and China — to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

The Chandrayaan-2 — or Moon Chariot 2 — rocket, a key part of India´s ambitious space programme, could still blast off on July 29 or 30, media reports said. If that is not possible the launch would have to wait until September or beyond. “Right now, it is not possible to say when the launch can be scheduled. A committee is still investigating what went wrong,” an official from the Indian Space Research Organisation told the Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity.

ISRO blamed “a technical snag” for calling off the launch with 56 minutes and 24 seconds left on the countdown. “As a measure of abundant precaution Chandrayaan-2 launch has been called off for today,” it added.

The agency gave no immediate indication when it would try again, but experts said ISRO would be cautious. “If the launch does not happen in the next 48 hours, it could be postponed for a few months until we get an opportune launch window,” said Ravi Gupta, a scientist formerly with the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Gupta said the last-minute halt to the countdown was “a truly courageous decision” after all the effort put into the preparations.

News reports quoted an unnamed ISRO official as saying a problem occurred during the last stage of powering up the rocket, and fuel would have to be taken out — which could take 10 days — before a new launch date is announced.

India has spent about $140 million on Chandrayaan-2, designing and building almost all of its components domestically. It has hailed the mission as one of the cheapest in the crowded space race. The launch would have been the third to the moon this year.

China put its Chang´e 4 mission on the lunar surface in January, while Israel´s $100 million Beresheet crash-landed when it sought to become the first privately-funded mission in April.

A soft landing on the Moon would be a huge leap forward in India´s space programme.

The Indian mission involved a 2.4-tonne orbiter that will circle the Moon for about a year taking images and testing the atmosphere. A lander named Vikram was to take the rover to the surface near the lunar South Pole.

The rover, that was to be put on the surface on September 6, was to spend 14 days sending back data on rocks and soil.

India´s first lunar mission in 2008 did not land on the Moon, but orbited the Moon searching for water using radar.


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