Sriharikota, Oct 22 (UNI) Dark clouds gave way to clear skies much to the delight of thousands of Indian Space scientists gathered at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here for the launch of India's maiden lunar exploration mission Chandrayaan-1 by the PSLV-C11.
As the scientists heaved a sigh of relief over improved weather conditions, the PSLV blasted off exactly as scheduled at 0622 hrs.
But for scores of people who had gathered to witness the historic launch, it turned out to be a big disappointment.
As the PSLV roared into the skies, a sudden cloud cover affected visibility, depriving the curious onlookers of having a glimpse of the rocket. Even hordes of photographers who had descended from various parts of India were disappointed.
''I am able to see only the flames pluming from the Launch Vehicle. I was not able to see the PSLV rocket because of the cloud cover'', one of the visitors at the SDSC told UNI.
The scientists, including ISRO Chief G Madhavan Nair were concerned about the weather conditions as the North-East monsoon had become more vigorous over the last few days.
The SHAR range has been experiencing rain and thunderstorm activity over the last four days and the launch vehicle, which was mated with the Second Launch Pad on October 18, took a heavy drenching.
''Even two hours before the launch there was a heavy downpour.
But mercifully, the weather did not interfere at the most significant moment (0622 hrs), paving way for a perfect and scheduled launch'', an ISRO official said.
As another sheet of clouds hovered around the SHAR Range, there was heavy downpour, mercifully after the PSLV completed its mission of injecting Chandrayaan-I in the intended initial earth orbit, from where it would be raised to the lunar orbit using the systems in the spacecraft.
As Mr Nair himself admitted later, the launch took place against all odds. ''Fortunately we had a clear sky at the right time and there was no lightning activity. We were able to achieve what we wanted to achieve in the first leg of the Journey to the moon'', he exulted.
The ISRO Chief hugged and shook hands at the Mission Control Centre when PSLV, in its 14th flight, turned out to be successful for the 13th successive time, once again proving that it was indeed the reliable workhorse launch vehicle.
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