After Mars, India space chief aims for the moon

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India now has its sights set on low-budget missions to the moon and the sun after becoming the first country in Asia to reach Mars, the head of its space agency said Tuesday.

India has been swelling with pride since winning the continent’s race to Mars in September when its unnamed Mangalyaan spacecraft slipped into the Red Planet’s orbit after a 10-month journey on a shoestring budget.

The mission, designed to search for evidence of life on Mars, sparked mass celebrations which were especially sweet as India also became the only country to reach the planet on its first attempt.

Buoyed by the success, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K S Radhakrishnan said the agency was forging ahead with plans to land an unnamed craft on the moon, along with a satellite to study the sun.

“The aim is three years from now, an Indian lander and Indian rover will land on the moon,” he said.

“We have a programme to study the sun that is by putting a satellite into the sun-Earth Lagrangian point,” he said, referring to the position where the satellite, held by the pair’s gravitational pull, can orbit with them.

China completed its first return mission to the moon last month with the successful re-entry and landing of an unmanned probe, but Radhakrishnan played down talk of a space-age rivalry between the world’s two most populous countries.

“We don’t race with any country. We have our own priorities,” he added.

But Radhakrishnan did acknowledge India was “certainly” eyeing a greater slice of the $300-billion global space market, by making and launching communication, weather, navigational and other satellites for foreign countries.