Nov 15, 2008

Tech - India's lunar proble lands on the moon

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A lunar probe from India's first unmanned moon mission Chandrayaan-1 has landed on the moon and started sending its first images, officials at the Indian Space Research Organisation said on Friday.

The Moon Impactor Probe detached itself from Chandrayaan-1 (moon vehicle) about 100 km from the moon's surface and crash-landed on the south pole of the moon at 1501 GMT, officials said in Bangalore.

"It was a flawless operation," said SK Shivakumar, director of ISRO Telemetry's tracking and command network.

The Probe, to be named "Aditya", aimed to kick up some dust, which instruments in the craft would analyse. It has started sending images to the mother ship, Shivakumar said.

A principal objective is to look for Helium 3, an isotope which is very rare on earth but is sought to power nuclear fusion and could be a valuable source of energy in the future.

It is thought to be more plentiful on the moon, but still rare and very difficult to extract.

India launched Chandrayaan-1 on Oct 22, joining the Asian space race in the footsteps of rival China and reinforcing its claim to be considered a global power.

Chandrayaan-1, a cuboid spacecraft built by ISRO, is also seen as a boost for the country's ambitions to gain more global space business.

In April, India sent 10 satellites into orbit from a single rocket, and ISRO says it plans more launches before a proposed manned mission to space and then on to Mars in four years' time.

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