India launched a bid to become a leading space power Monday, sending up a rocket to put a craft on the surface of the Moon in what it called a “historic day” for the nation.
Chandrayaan-2 — or Moon Chariot 2 — took off on time at 2:43 pm (0913 GMT) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh state.
Applause broke out in the mission control room as the rocket blasted off into the grey skies over the Indian Ocean and mission control announced that the orbiter had broken away from the rocket with no problem.
“Today is a historic day for space, science and tech in India,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chief K. Sivan said.
The launch came a week after a fuel leak forced a previous attempt to be cancelled 56 minutes before the scheduled blast-off.
The South Asian nation is bidding to follow Russia, the United States and China in landing a spacecraft on the Moon.
President Ram Nath Kovind of India watched the launch alongside 7,000 dignitaries and flag-waving children.

Indian students waved an Indian national flag as the Chandrayaan 2 was launched. PHOTO: ARUN SANKAR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Indian students waved an Indian national flag as the Chandrayaan 2 was launched. PHOTO: ARUN SANKAR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The rocket carried an orbiter, a lander and a rover, and has been almost entirely designed and made in India.
The 2.4-tonne (5,300-pound) orbiter is expected to circle the Moon for about a year, taking images of the surface, looking for signs of water, and studying the atmosphere.
The lander — named after Vikram A. Sarabhai, the father of India’s space programme — will carry the rover and be placed on the surface near the lunar South Pole. The operation is expected to take place in early September.
ISRO scientists will remotely control the rover named Pragyaan — “wisdom” in Sanskrit — as it carries out experiments. It will work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, studying rocks and soil on the Moon’s surface.
India, meanwhile, has shown in recent years how to launch budget missions. In 2014, ISRO successfully put a space probe into orbit around Mars for a cost of $74 million, compared with the $828 million that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration spent on a rover for its Mars program.
ISRO said its latest moon mission will cost around $130 million.
The organization keeps its costs down by making its equipment locally, sending smaller payloads than NASA and paying local wages, analysts said.
India’s first lunar mission, Chandrayaan 1, was launched in 2008 and orbited the moon about 3,200 times. It confirmed the presence of water molecules on the moon’s surface.
Governments and private companies are now eager to learn whether lunar mining might one day be possible, said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank.
India’s inexpensive missions have served as an advertisement for its capabilities and have prompted other countries to ask India to launch their satellites, she said. The country also wants to keep up in the space race to ensure it has a place in the conversation about space governance and to be able to counter China’s moves, said Ms. Rajagopalan.
Building India’s space program has become part of Prime Minister Modi’s agenda. In March, he made a televised address ahead of national elections stating that India had successfully tested a satellite-destroying missile. He has also pledged to send manned craft into space by 2022.

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