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India to announce lunar mission date this month

by Staff Writers
Bangalore, India (AFP) Feb 13, 2008
India will announce the date of its first lunar mission by the end of this month, the head of the country's space agency said Wednesday.

A report in the Times of India Wednesday said that the launch of Chandrayaan-1, originally planned for April, had been "tentatively postponed" until June or July because of technical reasons.

But Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman G. Madhavan Nair said in response that the date of the unmanned mission had yet to be decided.

India will join Asian nations Japan and China in moon exploration with the planned robotic mission. The spacecraft will conduct a lunar orbit at a distance of 385,000 kilometres (240,000 miles) from Earth.

China's Chang'e I lunar satellite took off on October 24 after Japan launched the Kaguya on September 14.

India's first robotic mission, budgeted at 100 million dollars, will be followed by another in 2012, ISRO has said. A timetable for a manned mission will be announced this year.

Spacefaring nations are accelerating their quest to reach the moon more than three decades after the last human landing, and use it as a springboard to explore planets beyond.

The US Apollo programme resulted in the only manned spaceflights to the moon, with six landings from 1969 to 1972.

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