NEW DELHI (AFP) –not only makes it a serious player in but also holds the prospect of a bigger slice of the lucrative satellite launch market, analysts say.
The country staged a flawless launch Wednesday of its first unmanned lunar orbiting spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 — the Sanskrit word for Moon Craft — with an Indian-built rocket from its southeastern coast.
“The launch has considerable political significance as it’s an assertion of India’s credibility in the area of space exploration,” said New Delhi-based strategic analyst Uday Bhaskar.
If all goes to plan, the 1.5-tonne satellite should be flying over the pockmarkedNovember 11. It’s being sent on a two-year mission to map in-depth the moon’s topography and its mineral and chemical properties.
The launch, greeted with chest-thumping patriotism, “demonstrated the nation’s growing technological potential,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
India sees the space journey as further boosting its diplomatic weight in the wake of the recent deal on civilian atomic cooperation with the United States that ended its nuclear pariah status.
The main exploration goal of the thrifty lunar mission — it cost just 79 million dollars, less than half that of similar expeditions by other countries — is to assess and map lunar mineral resources, Indian officials say.
India aims to launch the first Indian into space by 2014 and maybe to put a man on the moon by 2020.
Indian Space Research Organisation head G. Madhavan Nair has said the current mission will “unravel the mystery of the moon.” But some analysts argue that enhanced global status was a far stronger motive.
“It’s a moustache kind of thing — and moustache matters,” said Jane’s Defence Weekly analyst Rahul Bedi, referring to India’s national pride.
Asian nations have recently been at the forefront of space exploration — a field that was previously dominated by the United States, Russia and the.
China, whose space programme is far more advanced than India’s, was the first Asian nation five years…