India's most ambitious space mission yet, Chandrayaan-2, which hopes to place a robotic rover on the moon, will be launched on July 15. President Ram Nath Kovind will witness the launch of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-3 from India's only space port at Sriharikota.
He will be the third sitting president to witness a live launch from the space port. ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan had met President Kovind on June 21 and extended an invite to him.
Earlier, in 2005, President APJ Abdul Kalam witnessed a rocket launch from the Mission Control Center at Sriharikota when the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C-6 lifted off to place the Cartosat-1 satellite in orbit and also inaugurated second launch pad at India's rocket port.
In 2013, President Pranab Mukherjee witnessed the lift off of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-20 which lifted the Saral satellite on February 25. President Pratibha Patil visited Sriharikota in January 2012 to inaugurate the Mission Control Center, but she did not witness a launch. Several prime ministers including former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh and PM Modi have witnessed live launches in recent years.
The Rs 1,000-crore Chandrayaan-2 mission will carry an orbiter, a lander called Vikram and moon rover called Pragyaan. The launch is scheduled for 2.51 am on July 15.
The mission hopes to soft land on the moon surface in the first week of September. The 27-kilogram six-wheeled rover will explore the South Pole of the moon. This is a robotic mission and will carry no human beings to the moon surface.
Chandrayaan-2 is India's second foray to the moon. Landings in thin atmosphere and low gravity of the moon are very tricky.
If India succeeds in soft landing on the moon, it will become the fourth country to do so after the US, Russia and China. Earlier this year, Israel failed in its maiden attempt to soft land on the moon through Beresheet spacecraft, which crashed after reaching very close to the moon surface.
Only USA, Russia and China have been able to soft-land spacecraft on the lunar surface. If India succeeds, it will be a huge achievement for space agency ISRO that has a budget almost 20 times less than US space agency NASA.
India's Chandrayaan-1 mission was an orbiter where India was the captain and there were several global players like USA, Britain, Bulgaria and the European Space Agency. It cost Rs. 450 crore and was launched using India's workhorse rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in 2008.