India lands its first moon mission
India's space researchers say the lunar mission lays the groundwork for further space exploration [AFP]India's first unmanned lunar probe has landed successfully on the moon, a milestone for the country's 45-year-old space programme.The moon-landing on Friday is part of a two-year mission that lays the groundwork for further Indian space expeditions, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.G Madhavan Nair, the ISRO chairman, said that cameras on board had transmited images of the moon back to Indian space control, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.The moon mission was launched from the Sriharikota space centre in southern India on October 22.Scientific study. The box-shaped lunar 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. To date only the US, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China and now India have sent missions to the moon.
Space race While the 1960's race to the moon was between the US and the Soviet Union, far more countries have become involved in recent years. China, in particular, has been forging ahead in space. Beijing sent shock waves through the region in 2003, when it became the first Asian country to put its own astronauts into space. It followed that in September this year with its first spacewalk. Last year China also destroyed an old satellite with a land-based anti-satellite missile, the first such test ever conducted by any nation, including the US and Russia. India plans to follow this mission with landing a rover on the moon in 2011 and, eventually, a manned space programme.