India To Launch Unmanned Mission to the Moon

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Oct. 9 – In a 21st-century Asian version of the space race between the United States and Soviet Union, India will compete with China by launching her own first unmanned mission to the Moon. Scheduled for launch on October 22, weather permitting, the Chandrayaan-1, India's locally made rocket will be fired from southeastern India. The estimated Rs3.86 billion (US$80.8 million) project involves six foreign countries, including the United States.

It aims to map a three-dimensional atlas of the moon through high-resolution remote sensing and map the surface's chemical and mineral composition.

Despite limited funding, India operates an extensive space programme consisting of launch vehicles, satellites and data-processing centres.

India plans to send an astronaut into space by 2014 and a manned mission to moon by 2020 Reuters reported. As part of preparations for that, it launched four satellites on a single rocket for the first time in January 2007, including one that was brought back to earth.

At least 16 Indian satellites currently orbit the earth, supporting telecommunications, TV broadcasting, earth observation, weather forecasting, remote education and healthcare.

India's constellation of seven earth-observation satellites is the largest of its kind in the world, but its space programme lags behind its Asian rival China, which in 2003 became only the third nation after the United States and the former Soviet Union to launch a man into space aboard its own rocket.