Everybody’s Going To The Moon

It’s official. India is now the world’s sixth space power.

India’s victorious launch on Wednesday of its first lunar mission, the unmanned Chandrayaan-I, marked a dramatic step forward in its race with China to put a man on the moon.

Chandrayaan-1 — which means “Moon Craft” in ancient Sanskrit — launched from the Sriharikota space center in southern India in a two-year mission aimed at laying the groundwork for further Indian space expeditions.

Officials said the lift-off was a total success, with the rocket placing the craft into a transfer orbit around the globe within 19 minutes.

“This is a historic moment. We have begun our journey to the moon,” said Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Madhavan Nair.

The launch was televised live on most Indian TV channels although some critics have questioned the sense in spending so much money on space when hundreds of millions of Indians still live in awful poverty.

In an interview with Time.com, Dr K. Kasturirangan of ISRO said, “it is not a question of whether we can afford it… it’s whether we can afford to ignore it.”

He points out that $80 million is a relatively low budget for a space mission. “And the returns, in terms of the science… the technology, inspiration, stature, prospects for international cooperation… are immense.”

(Image: nytimes.com)