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India's first lunar spacecraft lifts off
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The satellite Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, India's first moon mission craft is seen at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) center in Bangalore. India has begun counting down Monday to the launch of its first unmanned mission to the moon that will mark a giant catch-up step with Japan and China in the fast-developing Asian space race.

The satellite Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, India's first moon mission craft is seen at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) center in Bangalore.[Xinhua/AFP]

India's first lunar spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 lifted off from Sriharikot in southern Andhra Pradesh, at 6:20 a.m. (0050 GMT) on Wednesday, according to NDTV.

Chandrayaan-1, with 11 scientific instruments (payloads) six foreign and five Indian is the first spacecraft mission of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) beyond Earth orbit.

Chandrayaan-1 was adjusted into its expected path 20 minutes after it was blasted off. Local NDTV said that "it works well on its orbit now".

Scientists in the control room in Bangalore celebrated the successful launch of India's maiden moon mission with warm applause.

The director of this mission, Madhavan Nair, made a short speech and claimed this "a historic moment".

The scientific and mission objectives are to probe the origin and evolution of the moon, understand the mineralogy and presence of Helium-3, a relatively clean fuel for future generation nuclear reactors.

If the moon mission is successful, India will join an elite club of a small number of countries which have sent crafts into orbit around the moon.

The Indian Academy of Sciences started planning a lunar mission in 1999 and roped in the Astronautical Society of India in 2000.

The ambitious project started with the setting up of a national lunar mission task force by the state-run ISRO. The country's top scientists and technologists assessed the feasibility of such a mission, its objectives and configuration required.

"The task force recommended that an Indian mission to the moon was worthwhile in view of our domain expertise in space technology. About 1,000 scientists held brainstorming sessions on the scientific objectives of the mission, instruments to be developed, launch vehicle and spacecraft building," ISRO director S. Satish said.

"The moon has again become the prime target for exploration and there is rejuvenated interest. All the major space-faring nations started planning missions to explore the moon and to utilize moon as a potential base for space exploration," the director added.

The mission would be followed by Chandrayaan-2 which features a lander and a rover. India and Russia would jointly participate in this project. However, there might be a provision to accommodate payloads from other space agencies like in Chandrayaan-1.

"This apart, studies are being conducted by ISRO on sending unmanned spacecraft to planet Mars as well as to asteroids and comets. Through such programs, ISRO intends to undertake the exploration of space besides its primary mission of developing and utilizing space technology for the overall development of the country", the ISRO official said.

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