India is planning to land on the south pole of the moon in September, three years ahead of a deadline to send a manned crew to space as Prime Minister Narendra Modi intensifies a sprawling extra-terrestrial race.

The mission to the moon -- India’s second -- will have an orbiter, a rover and a lander, and it is likely to be launched between July 9 and July 16, the Indian Space Research Organisation said in a statement late on Wednesday. All the modules are getting ready for the launch with an expected moon landing on Sept. 6, according to the statement.

Modi, who is seeking a second term in the current general election, has been aggressive with his space policies. He announced a surprise $1.4 billion manned mission last year with a deadline of 2022, which reignited a project put on the back-burner by previous governments. In March, Modi said India fired a missile to knock down one of its own satellites in low Earth orbit, joining the U.S., Russia and China in an elite group of nations that have the capability to target satellites.

In its second mission to the moon, India will seek to study the potential for mining a source of waste-free nuclear energy that could be worth trillions of dollars, apart from other scientific experiments, K. Sivan, chairman of ISRO, said in an interview last year. The governments of the U.S., China, India, Japan and Russia are competing with startups and billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson to launch satellites, robotic landers, astronauts and tourists into the cosmos.

India’s first mission to the moon, launched in October 2008, completed more than 3,400 orbits and ejected a probe that discovered molecules of water in the surface for the first time. India has specialized in low-cost space launches since the early 1960s, when rocket sections were transported by bicycle and assembled by hand inside St. Mary Magdalene Church in Thumba, a fishing village near the tip of the Indian peninsula.



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