Monday 16 September 2019

Indian space mission aborted at last minute

Spectators leave a viewing gallery after India's second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, was called off. Photo: REUTERS/P. Ravikumar
Spectators leave a viewing gallery after India's second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, was called off. Photo: REUTERS/P. Ravikumar

Adam Withnall

India has aborted its planned mission to the moon with less than an hour to go before lift-off, with officials citing a last-minute "technical snag".

The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was due to launch yesterday, but the countdown at the control room of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) abruptly stopped.

ISRO said a problem was seen in the 640-tonne, 14- storey rocket launcher, and "as a measure of abundant precaution, Chandrayaan-2 launch has been called off for today".

A spokesperson said the agency would announce a revised launch date soon.

If successful, the mission would have made India only the fourth country to achieve a "soft", or controlled, landing on the moon, after the US, Russia and China.

Chandrayaan-2 is India's second lunar exploration mission, after Chandrayaan-1 orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the existence of a basin containing ice water.

As well as the launch system, the spacecraft carries two key payloads, an orbiter with a mission life of up to a year, and a rover which is designed to land near the lunar south pole and explore the surface for water and take other readings.

Since its inception in 1962, India's space programme has been criticised as an unnecessary expenditure for a developing country with a vast population and high rate of poverty.

The Independent

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