October 16, 2019
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Science & Technology

Another delay in India’s prestigious lunar mission, disappointing but needed

By Sarwar Kashani

New Delhi, Jul 15 (efe-epa).- A technical glitch has led India to put on hold again the launch of its second Moon landing mission to look for signs of water near its uncharted South Pole – a prestigious space exploration program that has already suffered several delays.

The launch of the most ambitious space mission of India’s space agency was scheduled to take place at 2.51 am on Monday, but the countdown was frozen and a live media feed snapped about 56 minutes of action before the scheduled take off from Sriharikota island in southern India.

While the delay in the mission caused an obvious setback, an ISRO official told Efe that there were no major disappointments.

“It was done after a minor observation. You know this is the prestigious mission and in such space missions, it has to be 100 percent perfect to make it a success,” ISRO spokesperson Vivek Singh said.

“Even 99.99999 percent won’t do. We are glad that we detected the issue and were able to hold the launch minutes before the lift off.”

He said the issue was minor and it was being analyzed by top scientists.

“Hopefully, we should be able to come up with our analysis by tomorrow (Tuesday) and then we will fix the next launch date,” Singh told Efe over phone from Sriharikota, a barrier island off the Bay of Bengal coast in the southern Andhra Pradesh state.

Earlier, everything looked to be in place and set for the 3.8-tonne spacecraft, dubbed Chandrayaan-2, to take off on the 640-tonne (5,244 pound) Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III) – a humongous 14-storey-high rocket.

A link to the live streaming of what could have been a historic moment in India’s space ambitions was shared on social media for regular citizens to watch. The agency even tweeted that the filling of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in the cryogenic stage, or the last stage, for the rocket before it separates had been done.

But not long after the ISRO tweeted that the launch had been put on hold as “a measure of abundant precaution.”

The success of the mission is significant. India has been asserting itself as a global space power to be reckoned with and is planning to launch a manned space mission by 2022.

Besides, national pride runs high. Hindu right-wing Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, boasts of such technological advancements as a marker of India’s rising global power status.

Modi, in March this year, in the middle of the general elections that he won with a landslide majority, announced the successful test of the country’s first space weapon – a missile to shoot down enemy satellites in space.

Former ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair, one of the most popular names in India’s rocket technology, told Efe that the latest delay to Chandrayaan-2 was a “little disappointing” since everyone was waiting for the “historic moment.”

“But nothing to worry. It is a temporary setback. It was a blessing in disguise,” said Nair, a member of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Nair, who led the space agency for six years from September 2003, said landing on the moon is a complex mission.

He said the ISRO had made the right call to delay the launch because “no chances” could be taken with such missions.

Chandrayaan-2, if successful, will make India the fourth country in an elite club of nations to have made a surface landing on the moon – a feat achieved earlier by Russia, the United States and China.

The spacecraft has a lunar orbiter, a lander and a rover that is expected to spend two weeks analyzing the Moon’s surface.

This is India’s second lunar mission after Chandrayaan-1 in 2008. Chandrayaan-1 did not land on the lunar surface but found some of the earliest detailed evidence of water on the Moon with the help of radars.

Chandrayaan-2, the follow-up mission to Chandrayaan-1, has so far faced five known delays.

The first take off was scheduled in March last year. It was first delayed to April and then to October for more tests.

Two more delays happened as a result of a significant design revamp late last year and minor damages to its lander during testing in April 2019. EFE

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