India's first unmanned moon mission entered lunar space early today as part of its final journey this week into the moon's orbit, a top space official said. The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was launched with an Indian-built rocket on Oct 22 from the country's southeastern coast. "The operation to put Chandrayaan into lunar space went off very well," S Satish, director of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
The spacecraft is now 1,000km from the moon, enabling its terrain-mapping camera to shoot pictures of it. Scientists are preparing for the next major stage to enable the spacecraft to enter lunar orbit on Saturday and position itself about 100km from the moon's surface. Once the mission is in the lunar orbit, it will stabilise in about a week, after which it will send a probe instrument to the moon's surface.
Chandrayaan carries 11 payloads ? five from India and others from abroad. During a two-year orbital mission, it will provide a detailed map of the mineral, chemical and topographical characteristics of the moon's surface. The mission will cost India US$80 million (Dh293m). *AFP