Indian female rocket stars’ moon mission

The Chandrayaan 2 moon mission, which is managed and run by two Indian female scientists, has been successfully launched from Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota space station by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The history-making trip to the moon launched within a narrow one-minute window for their second attempt. Seven days earlier the mission was aborted 56 minutes before lift-off. The second attempt was shown live on TV in India.

ISRO scientists closely watched the GSLV Mark 3 rocket as it gained speed and headed towards the outer atmosphere, propelled by the massive thrust from the powerful 640-tonne rocket. Minutes later, the rocket successfully put Chandrayaan 2 into Earth’s orbit and a booming applause reverberated inside the control room as the scientists who have been working hard for the mission congratulated one another, hugged and shook hands.

“I am extremely happy to announce that GSLV Mark 3 successfully injected the Chandrayaan 2 into orbit… It is the beginning of a historical journey for India… We fixed a serious technical snag and ISRO bounced back with flying colours,” ISRO Chairman K Sivan said.

The GSLV Mark 3 – ISRO’s largest and most powerful rocket – is 44 metres long or as tall as a 15-storey building.

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The mission to the moon was led by two women scientists from the ISRO. Muthayya Vanitha was leading the Chandryaan 2 and Ritu Karidhal, known as India’s Rocket Woman, is the Mission Director.

India hopes the US$145 million mission will be the first to land on the moon’s south pole. If successful, India will become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon’s surface. Only the former Soviet Union, the US and China have achieved this to date.

The 3,850 kg Chandrayaan 2, a three-component spacecraft comprising an orbiter, lander and rover, has entered the Earth’s orbit, where the spacecraft will stay for 23 days – NASA’s Apollo 11 took four days to reach the Moon 50 years ago – before it begins a series of manoeuvres that will take it into lunar orbit and to the moon.

Vanitha is an electronics system engineer, with a distinguished career within ISRO. Vanitha has become the first ever woman project director at ISRO, breaking barriers like never before, Times of India reported. Vanitha has responsibility for data operations for the country’s remote sensing satellites, and she’s highly regarded as a problem solver.

Vanitha has given the Best Woman Scientist Award of the Astronautical Society of India in 2006, and also played a key role in the launch and success of India’s Mars orbital mission Mangalyaan in November 2013.


Karidhal, who has a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from IISC, Bengaluru, and has previously received the ISRO Team Award for Mars Orbiter Mission and also the ISRO Young Scientist Award in 2007. was Deputy Operations Director to Mangalyaan, where she earned the name Rocket Woman.

It was her responsibility to design Chandrayaan 2’s onward autonomy system, which gives the spacecraft the ability to navigate its trajectory and respond to satellite with a relative degree of independence. Karidhal is Chandrayaan 2’s mission director and will assume greater control now the spacecraft has been launched.

The US$145 million cost of the mission represents a huge cost-saving for such trips to the moon if successful. To put it into perspective, the movies Avengers: Endgame cost US$356 million and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides US$379 million. The total cost of Project Apollo from 1960 to 1973 was US$25.4 billion.

If Chandrayaan 2 is successful in its mission to the south pole of the moon, it is hoped to be the breakthrough that will pave the way for human habitation and eventually form a lunar base for future space exploration, particularly on Mars. Chandrayaan 1 helped confirm the presence of water on the moon’s surface in 2009.

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