BANGALORE: India yesterday unveiled a spacecraft which is expected to take off for the moon next month, making the country only the fourth to achieve the feat. The mission is India's second to the moon, and if successful it will put the nation in the league of the US, the former Soviet Union and China. Named Chandrayaan-2, the craft is made up of an orbiter, a lander and a rover developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

It will be launched from Sriharikota space center on July 15 and is expected to land near the lunar South Pole on Sept 6. Once it touches down, the rover will carry out experiments while being controlled remotely by ISRO scientists. "It is going to be the most complex mission ever undertaken by ISRO," Chairman K Sivan was quoted as saying by local media. "The aim is to use space technology for the benefit of the common man."

BANGALORE: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists work yesterday on the orbiter vehicle of 'Chandrayaan-2', India's first moon lander and rover mission. - AFP

The Indian mission would be the third attempted lunar landing this year after China's successful Chang'e-4 lunar probe and Israeli spacecraft Beresheet, which failed and crashed onto the moon in April. "It is the most complex mission ISRO has ever undertaken," Sivan said. Chandrayaan-1, India's first lunar mission in 2008, cost $79 million and helped confirm the presence of water on the moon. The Chandrayaan-2 was originally planned as a collaboration with Russia's Roscosmos space agency, but in 2013 India scrapped the tie-up due to technical differences with the Russian program.

India has made giant strides in its space journey in recent years. It launched a record 104 satellites in a single mission in 2017, and has also built a reputation for low-cost space exploration and science missions. In March, the country said it had destroyed a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test to prove the nation was among the world's most advanced space powers. In 2014, India launched an unmanned Mars mission at a cost of $74 million, or less than the budget of the Hollywood space blockbuster "Gravity" and a fraction of the $671 million the US space agency NASA spent on its MAVEN Mars mission. - Agencies