In a simple tweet at 11:06am on Thursday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced the new date for launching its second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2. The rocket will now be launched on Monday, July 22 at 2.43 pm, the ISRO tweeted on Thursday.
The earlier launch, which was scheduled at 2.51 am on July 15 was called off one hour before the take-off due to a technical snag. Although there are unconfirmed reports that the snag was a leak in the nipple joint of the cryogenic engine, the ISRO is yet to release an official explanation. It still says the launch was called off due to a technical snag.
Chandrayaan-2 is an ambitious mission that aims to make a soft landing on the moon with a lander named after the father of Indian space programme, Vikram Sarabhai. The lander also has in its belly a rover, which is a six-wheeled exploring vehicle capable of traveling up to 500m from its parent lander, and equipped with instruments to test lunar soil for minerals and water.
Chandrayaan-2 has had several delays, and the launch date has been rescheduled five times. It was first slated for last April, then last October. The next announcement was for a January 2 launch, which got further shifted to mid March-mid April. The July 15 launch, however, had been completely formalised and the ISRO had sent invites everywhere. President Ramnath Kovind was at Sriharikota to witness the launch, as were over 5,000 members of the general public, who had registered through a mircrosite on ISRO's website. There was also a posse of media persons, including several from international publications.
The countdown had begun, and ISRO was tweeting at regular intervals the progress at the launch pad when at 1.51am came the announcement to "hold the launch", which was, moments later, followed by the announcement that the launch had been called off due to a technical snag, and that the particular launch window (July 9 to 16) had been missed.
The announcement was initially met with disbelief, but the gathering, was quick to understand that in space missions, these things can happen. So even young students, who had stayed awake all night, cheerily said chorused, "We are with ISRO" and "We will come back for the launch," as they readied their departure from the island. Incidentally, in the run-up to the launch, ISRO chairperson K.Sivan had spoken to THE WEEK, and said that in space systems, the difference between success and failure was extremely slender.
He mentioned that failure rates were very low because there were well-defined systems. In fact, it was because of these well-designed systems that the scientists and engineers noticed something was not right, and quickly decided to abort the launch. An aborted launch, however, is not a failure. In this case, it has only been rescheduled to a time by when the snag is corrected and a new window for the launch is arrived at.
ISRO will now be working on a very small window, they say just one minute. This means that there is very little room for maneuvering this time round, while during the previous launch window, it had around ten minutes in hand.
Now that the launch date has shifted, there will be new dates for leaving the earth's orbit, getting injected into the moon's orbit, and ultimately, landing on the moon's surface. Will the scope of the mission now be reduced? We await fresh updates from ISRO.