India's first lunar lander is on its way to the moon

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Hours after the launch on Monday, China's lunar exploration programme chief Wu Weiren wished Chandrayaan-2 a success and said China, which is actively pursuing its own moon mission, is not in competition with any other country in planning its space missions.

The liftoff marks India's bid to become only the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon. Though the first mission featured a deliberate crash-landing of a probe, the Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to safely land a rover vehicle on the moon's surface, where it will explore a little-known region and send photos back to Earth.

The unmanned Chandrayaan-2, which means "moon vehicle" in Sanskrit, was launched at 2:43 p.m. local time from a tiny barrier island in southeastern India.

Chandrayaan-2 has an orbiter, which is created to go around the moon for a year, a lander called Vikram which would land on the unexplored lunar south pole and a tiny rover named Pragyan that would go around a bit to explore the lunar terrain.

"Every Indian is immensely proud today!", tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has vowed to send a manned mission into orbit by 2022. Indian media have reported that a leak from a helium gas bottle in the cryogenic engine of the rocket was to blame.

The spacecraft has entered the Earth's orbit, where it will stay for 23 days before it begins a series of manoeuvres that will take it into lunar orbit. When Chandrayaan-2, India's second lunar mission, took off, she jumped up, clapping, a bright smile lighting up her face.

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"We positively view India's launch of the Chandrayaan-2 mission with a lunar rover", she said at a regular briefing. The current lunar mission cost about $140 million.

Students wave Indian national flags as Chandrayaan-2 launches. And such a lunar station could also prove an ideal alternative to the International Space Station, now nearing the end of its operational life, with Isro as a partner with other top space agencies.

Earlier this year, Israel's first Moon mission crash-landed while attempting to touch down.

Destination Moon -The rocket will take up an orbiter, a lander and a rover, and has been nearly entirely designed and made in India. There will be the first Indian crewed orbital spacecraft, Gaganyaan, which is expected to launch in 2021.

When it was announced that the spacecraft had separated from the launch vehicle's last stage, achieving geosynchronous orbit, the visible anxiety inside the control room was broken by Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), jumping out of his chair and raising both hands up in triumph. "The D-day will come and that day we will experience 15 minutes of terror to ensure safe landing near South Pole", Sivan said.

Two Chandrayaan modules - an orbiter and a lander - are stacked together inside a launcher equipped to lift heavy satellites into orbit, while a third module, a lunar rover, is supposed to roll out on landing and operate for at least 14 days on the surface.

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