India has successfully launched a mission to soft land a rover on the moon, in a landmark moment for a nation trying to become a space superpower.
The country’s latest lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh state at 2:43 p.m., Monday local time (5:13 a.m. ET).
The launch was originally scheduled for July 15, but was abruptly called off just 56 minutes before liftoff due to a “technical snag.” India is now on the way to becoming the fourth country – in addition to United States, China and the former Soviet Union – to make a soft landing on the lunar surface.
The Chandrayaan-2, which weighs 3.8 tons and carries 13 payloads, has three elements – lunar orbiter, lander and rover, all developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
It will travel for two months, before positioning itself in a circular orbit 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. From there, the lander – named Vikram after the pioneer of the Indian space program Vikram Sarabhai – will separate from the main vessel and gently land on the moon’s surface near its south pole.
A robotic rover named Pragyan (meaning “wisdom”) will then deploy and spend one lunar day, or 14 Earth days, collecting mineral and chemical samples from the moon’s surface for remote scientific analysis.
Over the next year, the orbiter will map the lunar surface and study the outer