India has successfully launched its first mission to the Moon. The unmanned Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft blasted off smoothly from a launch pad to embark on a two-year mission of exploration.
Indian PM Manmohan Singh hailed the launch as the "first step" in a historic milestone in the country's space programme. "Our scientists have again done the country proud," he said.
The robotic probe will orbit the Moon, compiling a 3-D atlas of the lunar surface and mapping the distribution of elements and minerals. The launch is regarded as a major step for India.
The launch was greeted with applause by scientists gathered at the site. There has been a lot of excitement about the event, which was broadcast live on national TV.
The space programme has been largely welcomed. Most people say despite scarce resources India should keep pace with other space-faring nations.
The launch attracted worldwide media attention and many journalists flocked to the space centre, in Sriharikota, north of the southern city of Chennai, to cover the launch.