20-Hour Countdown To Moon Mission Starts, Chandrayaan-2 Set For Lift-Off

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Chandrayaan-2 will land nearest to the Moon's South Pole, where others have not gone

New Delhi: The 20-hour countdown for the launch of Chandrayaan-2 mission, India's most ambitious space mission yet which aims to place a robotic rover on the moon, began this morning. The moon mission will be launched on Monday at 2:51 am from India's only space port at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. ISRO will use its most powerful rocket launcher, GSLV Mk III, to carry the 2.4 tonne orbiter, which has a mission life of about a year. Here is your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:

  1. Chandrayaan-2 mission after its lift-off from Sriharikota will head close to the South Pole of the Moon for a soft landing. Almost the entire Chandrayaan-2's orbiter, lander and rover have been designed and made in India.
  2. The 640 tonne rocket GSLV Mk III, also known as "Bahubali", is as high as a 15-storey building and it will lift the 3.8 tonne satellite on its journey to the moon. This will be the third launch of India's heaviest launcher.
  3. President Ram Nath Kovind will be at Sriharikota to witness the midnight launch. He will be the third sitting president to witness a live launch from the space port.
  4. The Rs 1,000-crore Chandrayaan-2 mission will carry a 1.4 tonne lander Vikram – which in turn will take the 27-kilogramme rover Pragyan – to a high plain between two craters on the lunar South Pole.
  5. ISRO chief K Sivan said Vikram's 15-minute final descent "will be the most terrifying moments as we have never undertaken such a complex mission".
  6. If India succeeds, it will become the fourth country to soft-land spacecraft on the lunar surface after the US, Russia and China.
  7. If the mission is successful, it will be a huge achievement for space agency ISRO that has a budget almost 20 times less than US space agency NASA.
  8. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to send a manned mission into orbit by 2022. Most experts say the geo-strategic stakes are small – but that India's low-cost model could win commercial satellite and orbiting deals.
  9. Chandrayaan-2 is India's second foray to the moon. Chandrayaan-1 mission was an orbiter where India was the captain and there were several global players like USA, Britain, Bulgaria and the European Space Agency. It cost Rs. 450 crore and was launched using India's workhorse rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in 2008.
  10. The United States spent about $25 billion – the equivalent of more than $100 billion in current prices – on 15 Apollo missions, including the six that put Armstrong and other astronauts on the moon. China spent $8.4 billion on its Chang'e 4 lunar craft in January, and Russia spent over $20 billion at today's values on lunar missions in the 1960s and 70s.

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