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India Launches Chandrayaan 1 Moon Mission (News) October 22, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Base Race, Bulgaria, Chandrayaan, European Space Agency, Helium-3, Indian Space Research Organization, Japan, Kaguya, Roscosmos, rover, Russia, selenography.

Today, India’s Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched it’s first lunar mission, the Chandrayaan 1.

An unmanned lunar explorer (a la Japan‘s Kaguya), the Chandrayaan-1 (which is “moon craft” in Sanskrit) is set to map lunar topography in 3D, creating (as the ISRO puts it) a “3D atlas” and notably, chemical mapping of the lunar surface.

While I haven’t found any specific references to helium-3 in any Indian or other documentation of the Chandrayaan project, that prominent “chemical mapping” goal suggests that, like Russia, China, NASA, and others, India is seriously interested in the resource potential of the Moon.

The craft is carrying scientific payloads for six other organizations (check that link for specific pages for each one), including NASA, Europe’s ESA, and Bulgaria’s Space Research Institute.

This story got some big media play in the form of a huge front-page Drudge Report splash, with a huge picture of the Moon in the place usually reserved for the likes of Obama and McCain. Here’s that spectacular image (which ran with an “INDIA TO THE MOON!” headline):

I’m a little surprised at the high-profile coverage, as this Indian mission isn’t a whole lot different than JAXA‘s, which didn’t appear to get quite the same sort of media push. I think this speaks to the sort of excitement the Base Race can generate, especially as the significant 2010-2020 decade pulls closer (and as things domestically get more and more grim in the meantime).

The Chandrayaan-1 mission is expected to last for two years, with Chandrayaan-2, a joint Indo-Russian moon rover venture, shooting for 2011.


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