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India Successfully Launches Mission To Land A Rover On The Moon

India's ambitions to become a space power just took a giant leap in the right direction after the successful launch of Chandrayaan-2, a mission that will see an unmanned rover on the moon's south pole.

If successful, India will become just the fourth nation to make a soft landing on the Moon, joining the U.S., Russia, and China.

The historic launch appeared to go smoothly.

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The booster rockets separated safely as planned and the unmanned rocket achieved orbit, the first stage of its 48-day journey to the Moon. Over the next six weeks, the craft will perform maneuvers to ensure a successful landing, ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said, according to Reuters.

The successful launch of Chandrayaan-2 comes a week after the scheduled launch had to be delayed due to a technical snag.

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And it's still a long way from reaching its goal. Earlier this year, Israel's Beresheet spacecraft attempted a landing on the Moon only to crash. Even though it's been 50 years since the Apollo 11 mission, landing on the Moon is not an everyday task.

Chandrayaan-2's mission has three major components: a lander, a rover, and an orbiter.

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On the surface, the Pragyan rover will spend its two-week lifespan collecting data and images, while the lander, named Vikram after the ISRO's founder, will analyze lunar soil samples. Meanwhile, the orbiter will spend a year taking images of the surface. It's all in the name of finding water at the Moon's south pole.

"This mission will offer new knowledge about the Moon," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Hundreds of millions watched a live broadcast of the launch.

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Modi sent out congratulations and praise for the mission team on social media, tweeting "Indian at heart, Indian in spirit! What would make every Indian overjoyed is the fact that Chandrayaan-2 is a fully indigenous mission...Efforts such as Chandrayaan-2 will further encourage our bright youngsters towards science, top quality research and innovation."

Chandrayaan-2 also underscores how much space launch costs have come down.

Altogether, the mission comes with a cost of just $146 million — for comparison, the SpaceX launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket that sent a Tesla roadster soaring into the cosmos had a cost of about $90 million, while NASA shuttle missions cost, on average about $1.5 billion each.

Chandrayaan-2 is scheduled to attempt the landing on September 6 or 7.

Watch the launch below!

h/t Reuters, BBC