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India Launches Its First Moon Mission

Chandrayaan-1 Probe To Land On Lunar Surface

The Asian Space Race got as little tighter Wednesday, as India reported the successful launch of its first lunar mission.

Agence-France Presse reports cheers rang out at mission control as the unmanned lunar orbiting spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 was launched with an Indian-built rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on the country's southeastern coast.

Officials said the launch happened under cloudy skies at 6:22 am local time, and just 19 minutes later the spacecraft was successfully placed in its transfer orbit around the earth.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in Japan for an official visit at the time, and commented, "Our scientific community has once again done the country proud and the entire nation salutes them."

Madhavan Nair, head of the Indian Space Research Organization, called the launch a historic moment. "It has been a remarkable performance by the launch vehicle."

The mission includes plans to land a probe on the lunar surface. In a stark contrast to costs in more established space programs, AFP reports India is spending only $80 million for the entire mission... a figure that would make NASA, and its Congressional check-writers, envious.

India joins regional neighbors in a race which has recently seen China's first spacewalk, Japan's first lunar mission, and South Korea's first successful launch of a commercial satellite in 2006.

All four nations are leveraging their achievements in space to spotlight economic and technological growth. China and Japan both hope to land men on the moon by about 2020.

FMI: www.isro.org/, www.chandrayaan-i.com/index.html

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