There has been jubilation in India after the country joined the exclusive club of nations which have launched a moon-shot.
Chandrayaan-1 blasted off from a space centre in the south of the country on a mission that keeps India in-touch in a 21st century space-race among Asian powers.
India’s Prime Minister gave his reaction from Japan, another country with a probe orbiting the moon.
“When completed, the mission will put India in the very small group of six countries which have thus far sent space missions to the moon. Our scientific community has once again done the country proud,” Manmohan Singh said.
Chandrayaan will spend two years creating a highly detailed physical and chemical map of both the visible and the dark side of the moon from orbit. It will send a probe crashing into the surface, principally to look for Helium 3, which scientists believe could be an important energy source in the future.
The mission has stirred strong patriotic feelings, providing a distraction from economic slowdown and outbreaks of religious and ethnic violence.
One man on the streets of New Delhi said: “It’s a matter of great pride and joy. This is a big day, and we’ve done it on our own.”
Another added: “I’m extremely proud and happy that we’ve achieved something so big. Today we have gone to the Moon, and with God’s will we will go to other places too.”
This major leap into space came just a fortnight after India completed an atomic energy deal with the United States which effectively ends decades of nuclear isolation.
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