India’s space agency launched a rocket on Friday that will attempt to land a spacecraft at the lunar south pole, an unprecedented feat that would advance India’s position as a major space power.
Television footage showed the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) LVM3 launch rocket blast off from the country’s main spaceport in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, leaving behind a plume of smoke and fire.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission is designed to deploy a lander and rover near the moon’s south pole around Aug. 23.
Only three other space agencies – the United States, the former Soviet Union and China – have touched down a lander on the moon’s surface. None have landed near the lunar south pole.
The third Chandrayaan, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, includes a 2m tall lander designed to deploy a rover near the lunar south pole, where it is expected to remain functional for two weeks running a series of experiments.
ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2020 successfully deployed an orbiter but its lander and rover were destroyed in a crash near where the Chandrayan-3 will attempt a touchdown.