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India launches unmanned lunar module


India made history on Wednesday, launching a lunar module into space, marking the nations first expedition into space, according to CNN.

The unmanned lunar module, Chandrayaan-1, was launched from the Sriharikota space center in southern India at 6:20am Wednesday morning.

CNN reports that the orbiter will conduct lunar-mapping of the moon with an emphasis on the polar regions of the moon's surface.

The spacecraft itself will not land on the moon, but will dispatch a small probe onto the moon's surface, according to the New York Times.

India's historic space mission comes about a year after China's first successful lunar mission.

Although a China-India space race has been largely downplayed, Indian officials have commented on Indian aspirations relative to their neighbor, "China has gone earlier, but today we are trying to catch them, catch that gap, bridge the gap,? Bhaskar Narayan, a director at the Indian space agency, was quoted by Reuters as having said.

Many critics have steeped forward to comment on the undertaking, citing the hefty price tag of $80 million as a misuse of national resources.

Bharat Karnad, a strategic affairs analyst, has characterized the mission as a "prestige project" which misconstrues real Indian priorities.


http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/space/10/21/india.space/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/world/asia/22indiamoon.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin