India Lifts Off Rocket Carrying Moon Lander in Unprecedented Bid


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India Lifts Off Rocket Carrying Moon Lander in Unprecedented Bid(Bloomberg) -- India successfully launched its second mission to moon on Monday, a week after a technical snag forced the South Asian nation to postpone the attempt.The unmanned Chandrayaan-2, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, was launched at 2:43 p.m. local time from a tiny barrier island in southeastern India. The country is attempting to become the first nation to land on the south pole of Earth’s closest neighbor.A second attempt just days after the failed one is sooner than some experts predicted, underscoring India’s confidence in the project spearheaded by the nation’s equivalent of NASA. Another failure would have been a further setback to the effort that takes place five decades after man first walked on the moon.The mission also highlights Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s renewed focus on space exploration since he came to power more than five years ago. Several countries, as well as billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, are competing in an unofficial space race, from launching satellites to sending astronauts and paying tourists into space.India plans to send a mission to study the sun next year, another to Venus three years later, and eventually establish its own space station. It is also working on a $1.4 billion Gaganyaan mission, which aims to put three Indian “gaganauts” -- at least one of which will be a woman -- into orbit. The nation, which sent an orbiter to Mars at about a 10th of the cost of NASA’s Maven probe, launched a record 104 satellites in 2017.Elite ClubIndia is seeking to join an elite club of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. and China in making a soft landing on the moon, in which vehicles touch down without damage. The spacecraft is scheduled to land in 48 days, officials said.Two Chandrayaan modules -- an orbiter and a lander -- are stacked together inside a launcher equipped to lift heavy satellites into orbit, while a third module, a lunar rover, is supposed to roll out on landing and operate for at least 14 days on the surface.The Moon is the Next Frontier in Rivalry Between China and U.S.The aim is to explore virgin territory on the lunar surface and analyze crust samples for signs of water and helium-3. That isotope is limited on Earth yet so abundant on the moon that it theoretically could meet global energy demands for 250 years if harnessed.The launch and the satellite together cost 8 billion rupees ($116 million). India has specialized in low-cost space launches since the early 1960s, when rocket sections were transported by bicycle and assembled by hand inside St. Mary Magdalene Church in Thumba, a fishing village near the tip of the Indian peninsula.To contact the reporters on this story: Ganesh Nagarajan in Chennai at;Anurag Kotoky in New Delhi at akotoky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at, Ville HeiskanenFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.