India launches first unmanned moon mission

In yet another sign of India’s emergence as a global science and technology superpower, India launched its first mission to the moon Oct. 22, rocketing a satellite up into the pale dawn sky in a two-year mission to redraw maps of the lunar surface, reports the Associated Press. Clapping and cheering scientists tracked the ascent on computer screens after they lost sight of Chandrayaan-1 from the Sriharikota space center in southern India. Chandrayaan means "Moon Craft" in ancient Sanskrit. Indian Space Research Organization chairman G. Madhavan Nair said the mission is to "unravel the mystery of the moon. … We have started our journey to the moon and the first leg has gone perfectly well," he said. 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’s shaping up as a 21st-century space race, with Chinese and Japanese crafts already in orbit around the moon. To date, only the U.S., Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan, and China had 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 nation’s high-tech sector–into political and military clout. It is hoping that the moon mission–coming just months after finalizing a deal with the United States that recognizes India as a nuclear power–will further enhance its status…

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