India's ambitious third lunar mission Chandrayaan-3 took off on Friday, aiming to land on the Moon's south pole.
Television footage showed the LVM3 launch rocket blast off from the country's main spaceport in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, leaving in its wake a plume of smoke and fire.
Chandrayaan, meaning lunar spacecraft in Hindi, was launched from Sriharikota in southern India with an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
It has embarked on a journey that will last just over a month before landing on the Moon later in August.
The Indian Space Research Organisation – the country’s national space agency – launched the 3,900kg spacecraft from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, an island in the Bay of Bengal.
The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III, a 43.5-metre-tall vehicle carrying the spacecraft Chandrayyan-3, took off from the launch station at 2.35pm local time.
The lander is expected to take about 40 days to land after the launch and touch down on the Moon on August 23.
A group of 40 pupils attended the launch at the space centre.
Television channels broadcast footage of people, including the team of scientists at the space centre, cheering during the lift-off.
“Congratulations India. Chandrayaan-3 has started its journey to Moon,” Sreedhara Somanath, chairman of the ISRO, said after the launch.
Jitendra Singh, the junior minister for science and technology, said: “It is indeed a moment of glory for India and a moment of destiny for all of us to be a part of the history in making. Thank you team ISRO for making India proud.”
This is India’s second mission to the Moon's south pole. It launched Chandrayaan-1 in 2008, which intentionally crashed into the lunar surface and led to the discovery of frozen water. The finding made during the mission startled the world.
The budget for the Chandrayaan-3 mission is 6.15 billion rupees (about $74 million).
The cost of the Chandrayaan-2 mission was about 8.5 billion rupees ($124 million) while the first mission, Chandrayaan-1, cost 5.41 billion rupees ($79 million).
A successful third lunar mission would be viewed as a demonstration of India’s spacefaring ambitions.
It would be the first spacecraft to land on the south pole of the Moon, so far unexplored by humans, and provide valuable scientific data.
India launched Chandrayaan-2 in September 2019 but that crashed on the Moon when the soft-landing attempt failed because of issues with the onboard computer and propulsion system.
The main objective of the mission is to demonstrate a safe and soft landing on the lunar surface as well as the capability to place a rover on the Moon to conduct scientific experiments.
The spacecraft is made up of a lander/rover that will roam the Moon's surface for a lunar day, which is equal to 14 Earth days, and conduct scientific experiments. A propulsion module will remain in orbit around the Moon and act as a communications relay satellite.