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India's Moon shot takes to the skies

Successful launch of Chandrayaan-1

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India's Moon probe Chandrayaan-1 this morning successfully launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, the Indian Space Research Organisation reports.

The $83m mission, carrying a multinational array of kit, was carried aloft atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle at 06:22 Indian Standard Time (00:52 GMT).

Chandrayaan-1's principal science objective is to "conduct mineralogical and chemical mapping of the lunar surface", for which it's carrying eleven science payloads - six homegrown and five contributed by international partners. India's instruments include the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC), designed to "map topography in both near and far side of the Moon and prepare a three-dimensional atlas with high spatial and altitude resolution"; the Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI) ("to provide ranging data for determining accurate altitude of the spacecraft above the lunar surface"); and the High Energy X-ray Spectrometer (HEX), which is described as "the first experiment to carry out spectral studies of planetary surface at hard X-ray energies using good energy resolution detectors".

NASA's contribution encompasses the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR) - designed to "detect water ice in the permanently shadowed regions on the lunar poles" - and the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), tasked with mapping "lunar surface mineralogy in the context of lunar geologic evolution".

The European Space Agency, meanwhile, is on board with three instruments, including the Sub keV Atom Reflecting Analyser (SARA), which will apparently "image the Moon's surface using low energy neutral atoms as diagnostics".

When it finally arrives at the Moon, Chandrayaan-1 will settle into orbit at an altitude of 100 km for its two-year mission. Among the first tasks on the agenda is the deployment of the 29kg Moon Impact Probe (MIP) which "will be ejected from Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft at the earliest opportunity to hit the lunar surface in a chosen area". ®

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