India moon mission Chandrayaan Live Video Streaming Online
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VIDEO: Canada AM: CNN's Sara Sidner from New Delhi 4:06
Official web site : Welcome to Chandrayaan
Chandrayaan-1, India's maiden lunar mission, sits on the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, ahead of takeoff on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. (AP / Indian Space Research Organization)
India launches first unmanned moon mission
Updated Wed. Oct. 22 2008 7:56 AM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
India successfully launched its first moon mission on Wednesday and with it, joined the unofficial space race of the 21st Century.
The unmanned Chandrayaan-1 rocket, which means "Moon Craft" in ancient Sanskrit, blasted off from southern India in a two-year mission that officials say will lay the groundwork for further voyages by remapping the lunar surface.
Indian Space Research Organization chairman G. Madhavan Nair told The Associated Press that 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.
Since the U.S. and Russia made it to the moon in the 1960's, the technology involved in getting to the moon hasn't changed much. However, analysts say new mapping equipment allows the exploration of new areas, including below the surface.
India plans to use the 3,080-pound lunar probe to create a high-resolution map of the moon's surface and the minerals below.
Scott Pace is a former associate administrator at NASA and now the director of space policy at the George Washington University. He said the best maps of the moon available today were made about four decades ago during the Apollo era.
"We don't really have really good modern maps of the moon with modern instrument," Pace told AP. "The quality of the Martian maps, I would make a general argument, is superior to what we have of the moon."
With the latest launch, India joins the U.S., Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China in the elite club of nations that have sent missions to the moon.
Asian nations have taken a leading role in moon exploration over the last year. In October 2007, Japan sent up the Kaguya spacecraft. A month later, China's Chang'e-1 entered lunar orbit.
China also became the first Asian country to put its own astronauts into space when it did so in 2003. It followed that feat in September of this year with its first-ever spacewalk.
Indian officials said this latest mission will test their equipment for a future landing on the surface of the moon and plan to land a rover on the moon in 2011.
Indian space agency spokesman S. Satish said eventually, the country wants to send up a manned space program, though this has not yet been approved.
"Space is the frontier for mankind in the future. If we want to go beyond the moon, we have to go there first," he said.
With files from The Associated Press