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Rocket science:Chandrayaan-2 lifting off from Sriharikota on Monday.S.R.Raghunathan  

India’s second lunar journey and its first-ever interplanetary mission to be spearheaded by two women, Project Director M. Vanitha and Mission Director Ritu Kharidhal, got a boost after the ambitious Chandrayaan-2 mission, headed to the moon’s South Pole region, and achieved an orbit 6,000 km more than what was targeted.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) put behind last week’s setback and achieved a perfect launch at 2.43 p.m. on Monday from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR, in what was the GSLV-MKIII’s first operational flight.

From the scientists at the Mission Control to those at the Viewing Gallery, the media centre, and millions watching on television across the nation, the launch seemed like a nail-biting sports match. The cheers, whistles and claps every time a launch objective was achieved, at the Viewing Gallery and the Media Centre, gave the launch a semblance of the reception normally given to film stars or excellent sportspersons.

Sixteen minutes after the rocket rose into the cloudy skies leaving a trail of bright orange plumes and its engines let out a majestic roar before vanishing behind the clouds, the spacecraft was injected into orbit at a perigee of 169.7km and apogee of 45,475 km, the apogee more than what was targeted.

“The GSLV-Mark III vehicle has successfully injected Chandrayaan-2 in the defined orbit. In fact, the orbit is 6,000 km more than what was intended. The satellite will have more life, more fuel and more time to play with the manoeuvres. It is the beginning of a historic journey of India towards Moon and to land at a place near the South Pole to carry out scientific experiments to explore unexplored [areas],” ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said from the Mission Control after the launch.

The successful placing of the satellite in the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) was only the first step in a very complex operation. With ISRO tweaking the duration of the Earth-bound Phase and the Lunar-bound phase, it aimed to soft-land the Lander and the Rover on the lunar surface on September 7, a day later than what was planned.

“On the landing day, we are going to experience 15 minutes of terror to ensure a safe landing of the Lander-Rover duo near the South Pole,” Mr. Sivan told The Hindu . “This is because a soft-landing is new to us and everything should go as per plan and be perfect,” he noted.

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