India is on its way to the moon again — this time, to the lunar surface.
The nation’s robotic Chandrayaan-2 mission launched today (July 22) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, rising off the pad atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) rocket at 5:13 a.m. EDT (0913 GMT; 2:43 p.m. local Indian time). The launch came after just over a weeklong delay due to a rocket glitch, and just days after NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
“My dear friends, today is a historical day for space and science technology in India,” said K. Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), adding that the GSLV Mk III rocket placed Chandrayaan-2 in a better orbit than expected. “It is the beginning of a historical journey of India towards the moon and to land at the place near the south pole, to carry out scientific experiments, to explore the unexplored.”
The liftoff kicks off a long and looping deep-space trip. If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will reach lunar orbit on Sept. 6 and then put a lander-rover duo down near the moon’s south pole shortly thereafter.