Chandrayaan-I successfully put into earth's orbit
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Heralding a new era in the country's space programme, India on Wednesday successfully launched its first unmanned moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, becoming the sixth nation to undertake an odyssey for exploration of lunar surface.
The home-grown PSLV-C11, ISRO's workhorse launch vehicle, placed the spacecraft into a transfer orbit around the earth exactly 18.2 minutes after a textbook lift off at 6.22 am from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre in this island in the Bay of Bengal, 100 km north of Chennai.
The joy of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists knew no bounds as the 44.4 metre tall four-stage rocket majestically soared into the sky, capping their four years of toil for the first-ever mission that would travel beyond earth's orbit in the country's forty-year-old space programme.
"The launch was perfect and precise. It was a remarkable performance by the PSLV. The satellite has been placed in the earth orbit and with this we have completed the first leg of the mission. It will take 15 days to reach the lunar orbit," a beaming ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair announced.
President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani congratulated the space scientists on the successful launch.
When the spacecraft finally reaches its destination at 100 km above the moon surface after a series of manoeuvres over the next two weeks, it would signal India's arrival in the league of nations -- the US, Russia, European Space Agency, China and Japan which are already involved in lunar exploration.
India's last tryst with moon came way back in 1984 when Indian astronaut, Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma, travelled to space along with two Soviet cosmonauts. The focus now shifts to ISRO's telemetry, tracking and command network (ISCRAC) at Payenya in Bangalore, which will be the country's nerve centre for tracking and controlling Chandrayaan-1 over the next two years of its life span.