India’s ambitions of landing an unmanned rover on the moon have been momentarily delayed, after a technical glitch caused the mission to be put on hold less than an hour before take off.
The country’s Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft was scheduled to launch at 2:51 this morning, local time, from Sriharikota space centre near Chennai—marking India’s first attempt at a moon landing. But the countdown clock was stopped with just over 56 minutes to go, and a media feed from the Sriharikota control room was cut off, before the launch was ultimately abandoned for the day, The Guardian reports.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) took to Twitter to confirm that “a technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at 1 hour before the launch. As a measure of abundant precaution, #Chandrayaan2 launch has been called off for today. Revised launch date will be announced later.”
Chandrayaan 2 aims to be the first lunar mission to reach the little-explored south polar region of the moon. If successful, it will also make India the fourth country to have landed a probe on the moon—following Russia, the United States, and China—at a relatively meagre cost of just $140 million, according to Gulf News. For comparison, the US spent about $25 billion on 15 Apollo missions in the 60s and early 70s—the equivalent of more than $100 billion in today’s prices.
The four-tonne spacecraft is equipped with a lunar orbiter, a lander, and a rover. It is designed to spend two weeks on the moon’s surface, collecting information about the moon’s mineral and chemical composition and searching for water.
An ISRO source told local media that the technical problem was noticed while the cryogenic fuel was being loaded. “We have to approach the vehicle to assess the problem,” the source said. “First we have to empty the fuel loaded in the rocket, then the rocket will be taken back for further investigation. This process will take 10 days after that only we can decide on the launch schedule."
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