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India probe is on the moon

The nation's first lunar landing mission will map the surface and pave the way for future space endeavors.

November 15, 2008|Associated Press

NEW DELHI — The first lunar probe from India landed successfully on the moon Friday as part of a two-year mission aimed at laying the groundwork for further space expeditions by the country, the Indian Space Research Organization said.

ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair said cameras on board have been transmitting images of the moon back to Indian space control, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Chief among the mission's goals is mapping not only the surface of the moon, but what lies beneath. If successful, India will join what is shaping up to be a 21st century space race with Chinese and Japanese crafts already in orbit around the moon.

The unmanned moon mission was launched Oct. 22 from the Sriharikota space center in southern India. The box-shaped probe carried a video imaging system, a radar altimeter and a mass spectrometer.

The video imaging system was intended to take the pictures of the moon's surface, the radar altimeter was to measure the rate of descent of the probe to the lunar surface, and the mass spectrometer was for studying the extremely thin lunar atmosphere.

The Moon Impact Probe was one of the 11 payloads of the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, a space agency statement said.

In addition to India, only the U.S., Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China have sent missions to the moon.

As India's economy has boomed in recent years, it has sought to convert its newfound wealth -- built on the high-technology sector -- into political and military clout.

India plans to follow this mission with landing a rover on the moon in 2011 and eventually a manned space program, though this has not been authorized yet.

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