Indians go to the moon

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The Indian Space Research Organisation plans to launch a satellite to help unravel mysteries about the Moon.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to launch a 1050 kg remote sensing satellite - Chandrayaan-1 - to help unravel mysteries about the origin and evolution of the Moon.

The satellite, which is expected to have an operational life of two years, will be launched by India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in 2007/2008.

To assist the ISRO with its efforts, the European Space Agency (ESA) will provide the ISRO with three instruments for the new satellite: CIXS-2, the Chandrayaan-1 Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer, SARA, a Sub-keV Atom Relecting Analyzer and SIR-2, a Near-Infrared Spectrometer. In return, all data that is acquired by the instruments will be made immediately available to researchers at the ESA and those in ESA member states.

The instruments themselves are identical to those on ESA’s SMART-1. Launched in 2003, SMART-1, having demonstrated a new solar electric propulsion motor and tested other technologies on its way to the moon, will make the first comprehensive inventory of key chemical elements in the lunar surface.

The ISRO, founded in 1969, launched its first satellite in 1975. Since then it has developed a number of launch vehicles as well as satellites for Earth observation, remote sensing, telecommunications and weather forecasting.

India has its own launch site at Sriharikota but has also used Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to launch its satellites. Chandrayaan-1 marks its first venture into planetary space science.