India’s moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, on Friday, got off to a perfect start, with everything going on as per plan, nourishing hopes for the spacecraft’s soft-landing on the moon on August 23.

Precisely at 2:35 pm, on a sunny afternoon at the Sriharikota launch station, the 43.5 metres tall LVM3 rocket lifted off, soaring with a majestic nonchalance into the blue skies, as though enjoying the thousands of pairs of admiring eyes from the earth.

As the western sunlight hit the pillar-like smoke trail left by the bright orange plume of the rocket, a vertical shadow formed on the smattering of clouds over the Bay of Bengal – a very rare sight, which competed for attention with the roaring leviathan above. Presently, the rocket took a horizontal turn as planned, and the smoke trail turned in sympathy, looking like a giant, grey bird.

Exactly 16 minutes and 11 seconds later, the loudspeakers blared the announcement that the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft had separated from the rocket, raising thunderous applause in the mission control room. The separation was not visible to the naked eye but was shown live on the screen.

Also read: Chandrayaan-3 launchpad witnesses unique book release

Later, addressing a press conference, Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, said that it was a moment of glory not just for ISRO, but all of the country.

S Somanath, Chairman of ISRO, said that manoeuvres to shift the orbit of the Chandrayaan-3 (in order to let it pick up velocity from earth’s gravity) would begin on August 1. In weeks, Chandrayaan-3 will reach the vicinity of the moon and on August 17, the lander will separate from the propulsion module and begin its descent onto the moon’s surface. The landing is expected to happen at 5:47 hours on August 23.

Also read: Way to go — the intriguing route of Chandrayaan-3 to the Moon

This is India’s third sally on the moon. Chandrayaan-1, which happened in October 2008, was meant to take a spacecraft to the moon, but not land. Chandrayaan-2 was to learn (or demonstrate) a soft-landing of a lander onto the moon’s surface. But that part of the mission was not successful--because of a software glitch, the thrusters meant to slow down the descending lander failed to develop sufficient upward thrust and the lander crash-landed, hitting the moon at a speed of 58 meters a second, against the intended 2 mps.

The ₹615 crore Chandrayaan-3 now carries the hopes of the entire country, because if a successful soft-landing happens, India will be only the 4th country to do so, after the Soviets, USA and China.

Also read: Chandrayaan and the Tamil connect

LVM3 proves its mettle

LVM3, the biggest rocket to be built by India, has proved its mettle, on Friday, when it successfully carried and dropped off the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft to a point 179.19 km above the earth, for the spacecraft to begin it’s moonward journey.

It was LVM3’s seventh successful performace, third this year. With this, the rocket has proven its reliability.

The LVM3, formerly known as GSLV Mk-III, stands 43.5 meters tall and weighs 642 tonne at lift off.