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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 11:29 GMT
Europe backs Indian Moon mission
Smart 1's image of the Moon, Esa
Europe's first mission to the Moon has just arrived in orbit
Europe has agreed to support India in its quest to send a probe to the Moon.

The Chandrayaan 1 remote-sensing spacecraft is due to depart on the South Asian nation's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in 2007/2008.

The European Space Agency (Esa) Council agreed this week to provide three instruments for the one-tonne probe.

Esa's counterpart, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was founded in 1969, and launched its first satellite in 1975.

Since then, it has developed a number of launch vehicles as well as satellites for Earth observation, remote sensing, telecommunications and weather forecasting.

Together with China and Japan, it is part of a fast-developing Asian space sector.

The three instruments supplied for Chandrayaan 1 will be identical to those currently in orbit around the Moon on Esa's Smart 1 spacecraft - a demonstrator probe that is trialling new and miniaturised technologies.

Smart 1 has just begun a comprehensive survey of the key chemical elements in the lunar surface.

Scientists say this should confirm theories about the origin of the Moon - the product of a cataclysmic collision between the Earth and a Mars-sized body billions of years ago.

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