Less than an hour before its scheduled launch, India called off its lunar mission due to a technical problem. The Chandrayaan-2 mission was supposed to take off at 02:51 local time on Monday but a problem with the rocket launcher prompted officials of India Space Research Organization to abort the liftoff, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Problem in launch vehicle system

A spokesman for ISRO B.R. Guruprasad said the countdown abruptly stopped at T- 56 minutes, 24 seconds when a glitch was found in the 640-ton, 14-story launch vehicle system and the launch was immediately called off.

Guruprasad said ISRO would announce a new date for the launch of the $140 million Chandrayaan-2. The objective of the mission is to land on the far side of the moon and search for water deposits detected by the first ISRO mission. Chandrayaan is the Sanskrit word for “moon craft.”

Complex landing

Considering the technical complexities of a soft landing on the moon’s surface, the Chandrayaan-2 mission will be India’s most impressive so far, ISRO chief Dr. K. Sivan said at a media gathering last week.

Sivan, who predicted the landing to be "15 terrifying minutes," visited two Hindu shrines on Sunday to pray for the mission's success as the countdown began.

The Washington Post, quoting Pallava Bagla, a science editor of news channel NDTV, as saying that the problem appeared to be in the cryogenic engine stage and that next launch could be later this month.

India’s most prestigious mission

Chandrayaan-2 is composed of a rover, a lander, and an orbiter. It was to be sent off by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III, India’s most powerful rocket. At a height of 44 meters, the spacecraft weighs 1.5 times that of a loaded Boeing 747 jet.

Chaitanya Giri of the Gateway House described Chandrayaan-2 as a global groundbreaking undertaking.

Giri, a space and ocean studies program fellow at the Mumbai-based think tank, said the mission’s success would make India the first country to land on moon’s South Pole.

Water probe

Chandrayaan-2’s aborted liftoff came 11 years after the success of Chandrayaan-1, which made an orbit on the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of lunar water.

The Indian space agency said the new mission will probe the South Pole of the moon for water.

The Chandrayaan-1 probe discovered water-bearing molecules in craters at lunar poles, with craters at the South Pole found to have the highest density. The presence of water would be vital to establishing a station for crews in future moon missions.

Missing a chance

Last Monday’s failed launch enabled India to miss the chance to be the fourth country to land on the moon after the United States, Russia, and China. Japan and the European Space Agency have also sent missions to the moon.