The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, India's first unmanned scientific mission to the moon, blasted off successfully towards destination moon from Sriharikota, about 80 km from Chennai today. India now has joined an exclusive club of nations including the US, former Soviet Union, European Space Agency, China and Japan to have sent missions to moon. The two-year mission is aimed at laying the groundwork for further Indian space expeditions.
Chief among the mission's goals is mapping not only the surface of the moon, but what lies beneath. India joined what's shaping up as a 21st century space race with Chinese and Japanese crafts already in orbit around the moon.
"It is a proud moment for us. We have worked almost eight years towards the entire mission," K. Kasturirangan, former chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Rajya Sabha member, told IANS.
"With Chandrayaan-1, we are entering a new era of planetary exploration, which will be a major component of human endeavour in the 21st century. This effort and similar efforts in the coming years will put India in a unique position to be an active partner in major global efforts involving planetary exploration and exploitation," he added.
Echoing Kasturirangan, the main brain behind India's moon mission, U.R. Rao, former chairman of ISRO said he felt great about the successful launch of Chandrayaan-1.
"It is a joyous day for the entire country. The mission demonstrates India's capability in launch vehicles and sending spacecraft beyond earth's orbit. It is a proud moment for the Indian space community," said Rao.
"I am ecstatic. It is a great initiative. Rather overdue as it will be the first beyond earth. The success of the mission will lead to a second wave of adventure in space in line with the vision of the founders of the Indian space programme such as Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan," said Roddam Narasimaiah, member Indian Space Commission, Bangalore.
Delving on the importance of the moon mission, Kasturirangan said being the first mission beyond the earth's orbit, Chandrayaan-1 would establish India's credentials as a leader in space technology, including indigenous development of powerful launch vehicles and spacecraft.
"Six of the 11 scientific experiments in the spacecraft being foreign payloads demonstrates the confidence space-faring nations such as the US and the European Space Agency have in our ability to venture into lunar exploration," he added.
For the billion-strong Indians, the mission exemplifies the tremendous progress the country has made in science and technology despite poverty and illiteracy on the other side.
"On one side, the lunar mission will put India on the world map of high-level cooperation in space technology. On the other, it strengthens our resolve to fight issues like poverty, hunger and illiteracy through strategies," said Kasturirangan.
"The entire space community has worked hard for years for this great leap in space technology. Launch is one aspect. Putting the spacecraft in the lunar orbit about 100 km from the moon's surface involves intricate manoeuvres at different levels for over 18 days before it is successfully placed in the pre-designated slot," added Kasturirangan.
Narasimaiah said after the successful launch of Chandrayaan-1, India now had to rethink on what it had to do in space.
"This is the first step in looking at space beyond earth. The entire mission demonstrates that India has the capability to launch its own rockets and put satellites beyond earth. We already have the capability. It is being harnessed now," he said.
"For the country and its people, the mission to the moon may not bring tangible benefits in the immediate future, but can potentially lead to in the next 20 years. The issue will be how well we can use lunar resources. That depends on how much we find what is on moon and the technology we have to develop to make use of the resources."
The Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) also issued a statement congratulating the space scientists behind the successful launch.
The apex body of scientists in the country said the launch would help India economically and strategically.
"Successful blasting of Chandrayan-1 from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota has not only put the country into the select club that have sent missions to the moon, it will also help the country economically and strategically," said V.M. Trehan, chairman of ISCA, Delhi chapter.
India is certainly making waves with it's recent upsurge in space technology, anti-gravity propulsion systems to be unleashed by 2012 ... India is in the know of things to come !
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