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India delays second mission to the Moon

Space engineers at work in making the Chandryaan-2 spacecraft.

Space engineers working on the Chandryaan-2 spacecraft, which will now launch early next year.Credit: Pallava Bagla/Corbis/Getty

The launch of India’s second spacecraft to the Moon has been delayed for the second time this year. Chandrayaan-2 had been expected to lift off in October, after it was pushed back from its original launch date in April.

Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chair of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bangalore, told reporters on 12 August that the agency is aiming to launch the craft on 3 January next year — although the mission has a launch window of any time between January and March. Chandrayaan-2 will carry an orbiter that will travel around the Moon; a lander that will attempt India’s first controlled, or soft, landing; and a rover.

Sivan said that there were several reasons for the latest delay, including design changes to ensure a smooth touchdown for the lander. He said these changes have increased the weight of the spacecraft and therefore the amount of fuel needed to complete the mission, which has further added to delays.

India launched its first craft to the Moon, Chandrayaan-1, an orbiter, in 2008.

In a separate space-related announcment, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi said on 15 August that the country would send a person to space by 2022. The announcement puts a timeline on the nation’s long-held aspiration to achieve human spaceflight. In July, ISRO successfully tested a simulated crew-escape system.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-05973-6

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