India's launches its first mission to the moon
India on Wednesday launched its first-ever mission to the moon, with the unmanned Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft blasting off from the Sriharikota spaceport in southern India on a two-year exploration, dpa reported.
The 44-metre tall Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV C11) carrying the Chandrayaan probe lifted off at 0622 local time (0052 GMT) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, 80 kilometres north of Chennai.
The Indian Space Research Organization said the launch and the performance of the rocket was going "perfectly."
The Chandrayaan, which means moon craft in Sanskrit, is on a 3.86- billion-rupee (79-million-dollar) mission.
The 1,380-kilogramme solar-powered Chandrayaan, cuboid in shape, carries 11 payloads including six from the United States and Europe to prepare a three-dimensional atlas of the lunar surface and map the distribution of elements and minerals below the surface.
Indian scientists said that the mission will be a major step toward building India's technological capability and will help New Delhi catch up in a 21st-century space race with Chinese and Japanese spacecraft already orbiting the moon.
It will also lay the foundation for building India's capacities to undertake inter-planetary missions in the coming years.
The lunar mission includes a moon impact probe, which will crash into the moon and place the Indian national flag on the lunar surface, staking the South Asian country's claims to the moon.
Although the ISRO has put several satellites into orbit and operates assets 40,000 kilometres above Earth, the moon mission poses technological challenges for the agency in terms of tracking, orbit determination, navigation and guidance of the equipment at a distance of nearly 400,000 kilometres.
If the lunar mission is successful, India will join a club of spacefarers including the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China, which have undertaken missions to the moon.