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India Plans First Moon Mission

India's first unmanned spacecraft will carry three European payloads on its journey to the moon, scheduled for 2007, to be used in experiments on the lunar surface, the head of the country's space programme said yesterday.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Space Agency yesterday to carry the additional payloads aboard India's Chandrayan-1 spacecraft, ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair told reporters.

The payloads will include instruments such as an X-ray detector, a particle detector and a multi-spectral imager.

ISRO is also in talks with the US National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) to carry a miniature-imaging instrument to detect water ice in cold traps on the lunar poles up to a depth of a few meters, Nair said.

"We have the capabilities to develop and manage a mission that would orbit the moon and enable a series of observations, and measurements using specific instruments," he said.

The 590-kilogram Chandrayan-1 is expected to map the lunar terrain for minerals and conduct scientific experiments.

India has developed a tracking network to monitor the spacecraft while it is in orbit.

A special ground station is also being constructed near the southern city of Bangalore where ISRO is headquartered.

Meanwhile, ISRO will launch two Russian satellites during 2006-08 as part of its programme for international co-operation on a commercial basis.

ISRO Chief G. Madhavan Nair said yesterday in Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka, that his agency had a firm contract with Russia to launch the satellites to restore the Glonass navigation network.

The global navigation satellite system, or Glonass, is an international project involving 30 countries. Of the 24 satellites in the project, 11 have already been placed in geo-stationary orbit.
The Russian-built satellites will be launched from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh State, using an Indian rocket, the geo-synchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV), between 2006 and 2008.

(China Daily June 28, 2005)


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