Science News

FACTBOX: India's first mission to the moon

(Reuters) - India launched its first unmanned moon mission on Wednesday, following in the footsteps of its Asian rivals China and Japan, as it tries to show off its scientific know-how and claim a bigger chunk of global space business.

Here are some basic facts about the project:

* The unmanned rocket is called Chandrayaan-1. It costs 3.86 billion rupees ($79 million), has a take-off weight of more than 1.3 tonnes, and is being sent on a two-year mission to orbit the moon.

* India will be the third Asian country to send an unmanned mission into the lunar orbit. Chandrayaan-1 is much cheaper than spacecrafts launched by India’s Asian rivals. China’s first lunar probe cost over $187 million when it launched in October 2007, while Japan’s Kayuga, launched in September 2007, cost $480 million.

* Chandrayaan (“moon vehicle”) plans to map a three-dimensional atlas of the moon, and the surface’s chemical and mineral composition.

* The rocket carries 11 payloads -- five from India, two from the USA, and one each from Germany, Britain, Sweden and Bulgaria. * About 1,000 scientists have worked on the project for four years.

* India plans to send an astronaut into space by 2014 and a manned mission to the moon by 2020. The Indian government has approved the launch of Chandrayaan-2, which is expected to take off between 2010 and 2012, and will include a rover that will land on the moon.

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

* India started its space program in 1963, developing its own satellites and launch vehicles to reduce dependence on overseas agencies. India’s constellation of seven earth-observation satellites is the largest in the world.

* In 1959, the sphere-shaped Soviet spacecraft Luna 1 became the first spacecraft to orbit the moon.

Compiled by Matthias Williams; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sanjeev Miglani