India Calls Off Mission to Moon Less Than One Hour Before Launch

India called off its mission to the moon early Monday, putting on hold its plans to be first to explore the south side of the Earth’s closest neighbor.

The mission, called Chandrayaan-2, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, was canceled 56 minutes before its launch because of “a technical snag,” according to the Indian Space Research Organisation, which will announce a revised launch date.

A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at T-56 minute. As a measure of abundant precaution, #Chandrayaan2 launch has been called off for today. Revised launch date will be announced later.— ISRO (@isro) July 14, 2019

The launch, which was scheduled to take place at a tiny barrier island in southeastern India, attracted more than 100 reporters. Two Chandrayaan modules — an orbiter and a lander — were stacked together inside the launcher equipped to lift heavy satellites into orbit, while a third module, the lunar rover, was supposed to roll out on landing and operate for at least 14 days on the surface.

The scheduled landing on Sept. 6 would have added India to an elite club of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. and China in making a soft landing on the moon, in which vehicles touch down without damage. Space-faring nations, as well as billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, are competing in an unofficial space race, from launching satellites to sending astronauts and paying tourists into space.

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