India has launched its first unmanned mission to the Moon. The mission is
a major boost to the country's space program, as India joins Asian nations China
and Japan in exploring the Moon. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi.
unmanned Chandayaan-1 spacecraft blasted off from a launch pad in Sriharikota in
southern India, shortly after dawn, Wednesday, as the nation watched on
Scientists applauded and hugged each other. The head of the
Indian Space Research Organization, G. Madhavan Nair, calls it a perfect launch
and says everything is going according to plan.
"It's a historic moment,
as far as India is concerned…..We have started our journey to the Moon and the
first leg of the journey has gone perfectly well," said Nair. "It's a remarkable
performance by the launch vehicle, every parameter was on the dot….Today what we
have started is a remarkable journey for the Indian spacecraft to go to the Moon
and try to unravel the mysteries of the Moon."
It was clearly a moment
of celebration for scientists in charge of the mission
"This is the
beginning of a new era…..Words don't come, OK…..today it is a red-letter day…our
baby is on the way to the moon," one scientist could be heard saying.
Chandrayaan-I, which means Moon Vehicle, is being sent on a two-year mission to
orbit the Moon and scan its chemical and mineral composition. A key objective
will be to look for water. The spacecraft carries 11 instruments. Five are
Indian, three are from the European Space Agency and two from the United States.
A gadget from the spacecraft will land on the Moon to pick up some dust for
This is India's first space mission beyond the Earth's orbit.
If successful, the $79 million project will be a major step forward for India's
It is also being seen as an effort by India to catch up
with Japan and China, which have already sent unmanned spacecraft to orbit the
Moon. In particular, China has been forging ahead in space exploration, putting
astronauts in space and carrying out its first spacewalk.
India, too, has
drawn up ambitious programs. It plans to send an astronaut into space by 2014
and a manned mission to the Moon by 2020.
India started its first space
program in 1963, developing its own satellites and launch vehicles, and has a
foot-hold in the multibillion-dollar commercial space-launch