As potential history setting rocket Chandrayaan 2 lifted off towards the moon from the Sathish Dhawan Space Centre with a roar, the human decibel level too soared equally high at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. More than 5,000 people cheered the successful launch from ground zero at the public gallery of the space centre. This was the second launch witnessed by the public since the gallery's inception in March.
Hundreds of mobile phones captured the excitement even as many expressed their joy by waving the national flag.
Chandrayaan 2 lifted off at 2:43 pm on Monday on board a giant heavy-lift rocket. Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation had a narrow one-minute window for their second attempt at launching the moon mission, a week after the first attempt was aborted just short of an hour before lift-off.
Everyone who had made it to the gallery from across the country had a story to share. Students from the Modern Cambridge School had flown all the way from Delhi for the second time to witness the launch. Last week they had returned after the launch was called off. One of the students said "It was excellent and magnificent to see the launch". Another student from a Chennai school added "I'm very proud as an Indian. If Chandrayaan finds water, we may be able to colonise moon later."
Also marking their presence were children from underprivileged backgrounds from a government aided school in Chennai. Jaiganesh, a class 6 student, wants to become a space scientist. "When I grow up I want to become a scientist and design a rocket like this," he told NDTV. His friend Guna said "This kind of opportunity normally goes to big schools. I'm happy. I want to design robots and help people."
Surendra Mishra, an IT entrepreneur from Delhi, says his family stayed put since last week even after the cancellation of the launch due to a technician snag. His wife and daughter visited some tourist spots including Chennai. He said "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We are not going to miss it".
His daughter Shanvi, who loves space science, skipped classes for a week. "I love space science. Though I missed classes, it's worth it," she said.
A team of youngsters who had launched a satellite earlier this year on an ISRO rocket were also present to cheer team Chandrayaan.
Srimathy Kesan, Founder of Space Kidz India, which mentored the students, says "The government should build a space museum here with all technical facilities so that even the poorest of poor children can come here and learn."
But there were some who were critical of the launch as well. Anbu, an electrician, said "A huge population is without jobs, home and adequate food. The Rs 1,000 crore spent on this could have generated thousands of jobs or built huge number of houses or fed the hungry". However Parasaran, an engineer, countered saying "We are investing for our future. We can't lag behind though other issues are equally important."
Everyone present in Sriharikota among the 5,000 plus hope they would ultimately be part of a history in India's moon mission. Many also hope this would pave way for space tourism and development of a space museum at ground zero in Sriharikota.
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