India Joins the Space Race by Launching First Lunar Probe Tomorrow

By Nina Bai | October 21, 2008 10:03 pm

moonEarly tomorrow morning, India will launch its first lunar satellite, making it the sixth country to do so, following the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency, China, and Japan. The lunar-orbiting spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1, is scheduled to blast off aboard an Indian-built rocket at 6:20 am (0050 GMT) on Wednesday from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on India’s southeastern coast [AFP].

If all goes to plan, the satellite, weighing half a [metric] tonne, will enter a lunar orbit some 62 miles above the moon’s surface on November 8 and begin its two-year mission to map the moon in 3D, survey its surface for mineral wealth and start its 11 hi-tech probes, including five from the US, Sweden, Japan, Germany and Bulgaria [Guardian] Specifically, Chandrayaan-1 will be looking for uranium, helium-3 (used for nuclear fusion), and water ice. Although the unmanned spacecraft itself will not land on the moon, it will eject a small craft to land on and investigate the lunar surface.

The mission will cost India $80 million, which seems a bargain compared to China’s $187m lunar probe launched last year and Japan’s $480m Kayuga mission [BBC News]. The launch may also lead to lucrative commercial deals with countries who do not yet have the capability to launch their own satellites. Nevertheless, some Indian development policy analysts question whether the money might be better spent on tackling India’s myriad social needs. “They asked the same question when we built our first satellite, Aryabhatta, in the ’70s,” notes Mylswamy Annadurai, Chandrayaan project director [New Scientist]—presumably in disagreement. India already has a dozen satellites orbiting Earth, but Chandrayaan-1 will be its first to blast outside Earth’s gravitational pull.

The launch adds a third contender to the purported Asian space race, and there is no doubt that Chandrayaan-1 is a point of national pride for India: At the suggestion of Abdul Kalam, former Indian President, the impactor will also be painted with the Indian flag and thereby, symbolically, it will be “planted” on to the Moon [BBC News].

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Can We Survive on the Moon?
DISCOVER: One Giant Step for a Small, Crowded Country
80beats: New Race to the Moon Could Bring Permanent Bases and Observatories
80beats: The Moon Once Held Water, Moon Pebbles Show

Image: flickr/ The Pug Father

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Technology
MORE ABOUT: India, moon, space flight
  • http://hotmail Jude

    Each time we admire man’s ability to reach his target, comes the idea that this being can do a lot, except fixing what is the most urgent.
    India’s first extra earth orbital satellite will undoubtedly be a technological and political success, regarding its long conflict with other asian countries like Pakistan or its competing ability toward growing China. Nevertheless, many internal, specially social problems should be aimed by the actual administration. Many diseases are spreading over there, and most of them could disappear in the Indian population if Only the money was available.

    We’re not blaming India, cause it’s the same behavior that Countries like USA, China, EU, etc are showing to the rest of the world. Many urgent problems are ignored, so they can respond to their economic and technologic challenges. We would congratulate India’s space agency and advise the government to use more money in order to releif some social problems.

  • VISAPATRI

    It is not proper to inter link scinific research with the social problems, which are perinial and never ending.They were there in the eras gonby and would be there in the eras to come. Perhaps,the type of the problems might be different.No generaion can claim that it can solve all the social problems and creat a golden path for the succeeding ones.
    Whereas scintific research and development are a must for the advancement of the human society . It is this research and dvelopment that has been coping up with the social problems arising out of spurt in population and consequent after effects.Neglecting investment on scintific advancement wold be a grve error.
    If the generations gone by were not to invest on science, the social problems would have been worst than what they are today.The benifits of scientific research and development would accrue to the coming generations.
    The investment on science is much less when compared with the money being wasted by the corrupt poliicians under the guise of development.The public money is used , more often than not , for the benifit of the pliticians themselves.
    Investment on science is fruit bearing .

  • http://hotmail Jude

    One thing is certain, we have made a lot of scientific progress, but socially, we’re moving backward.

    Don’t consider people who are becoming wealthy( a few), but the number of those facing the toughest problems of life.

  • Al

    I could not agree with you more Jude. VISAPATRI is so typical of scientist as they try to justify the huge amount money that is funneled into space exploration among other things. Lets figure out how to feed the planet and take of the poor then we can find out if theirs water on Mars.

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