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India Launches 1st Unmanned Moon Mission

Posted October. 23, 2008 09:46,   


India yesterday shot its first unmanned space probe Chandrayaan-1 to the moon, entering the global space race.

Chandrayaan-1 was launched in the morning on the Indian-developed launcher PSLV-C11 from a space center in Sriharikota off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Following Japan’s Kaguya and China’s Chang’e 1 last year, Chandrayaan-1 is the third spacecraft launched by an Asian country.

Meaning “moon craft” in Sanskrit, Chandrayaan weighs 523 kilograms and carries 11 key devices onboard. Five of them were developed by India and the rest by other countries such as the United States, the European Union and Bulgaria. A combined 1,000 scientists from 14 countries worked on the spacecraft for four years.

The Indian spacecraft will orbit the moon for two years, collecting data to be used on a three-dimensional map of the moon’s surface and chemistry map. To collect the data, the spacecraft will send a small 30-kilogram vehicle to the moon to analyze the atmosphere and soil and find rare minerals.

India is behind China and Japan by about a year in space technology, but will seek to catch up through absorbing the technologies of advanced space powers such as the United States and Russia.

India will launch another space probe by 2010. Japan has no planned follow-up to the Kaguya and China intends to send up Chang’e 2 by 2012. Thus India can go ahead of Japan and China by about one or two years.

In addition, India will send a manned space mission by 2014 and land astronauts on the moon by 2020. It also envisions operating a space shuttle by 2025.

If India completes its phased plans, it will put astronauts on the moon around the same time as China, and about five years earlier than Russia and Japan.