Fifty years ago today, the Apollo Eleven mission lifted off from Florida — heading for the moon. This week, another moon mission starting from the other side of the world suffered a setback.
Less than an hour before takeoff on Monday, India’s space agency scrapped its latest lunar mission. The agency said the launch was called off after “a technical snag was observed” in the launch vehicle system.
This would be India’s second rocket trip to the moon — and the first one with a planned landing. Eleven years ago, the country sent a spacecraft near the lunar surface, which used radar to search for water on the moon.
This time around, the goal is to land near the moon’s south pole — a relatively unexplored stretch of lunar real estate.
During its two-week life span, a six-wheeled solar-powered rover vehicle will gather and analyze soil — searching for water and minerals. An orbiter is expected to circle the moon for about a year, taking high-resolution pictures and video and relaying other information.
A moon landing would put India in a small group. So far, only the United States, the Soviet Union and China have made lunar landings.
India has plans for an ambitious space program — hoping to carry out a space flight with a crew aboard by the year 2022. And eventually, put people on the moon.