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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
India 'on course' for the Moon
India is on course to send a spacecraft to the moon, the country's top space body says.

Some of the country's top scientists have met to review the mission which has been in the pipeline for the last several months.

The moon
It is not whether we can afford it - it is whether we can afford to ignore it
K Kasturirangan
ISRO chairman
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which hosted the meeting, said the mission is likely to take place in 2008.

But there is no plan to send an astronaut on the lunar flight.

ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan said the project would "electrify the nation and show the world that India is capable of taking up complex projects at the cutting edge of space research.

"It is not whether we can afford it. It is whether we can afford to ignore it," the Associated Press quoted him as saying.

The project is estimated to cost 3.5bn rupees ($74m).

The plan envisages senging a 250kg remote sensing satellite which will be launched by India's own indigenously developed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

The project aims to explore the surface of the moon.

Federal backing

ISRO officials say the final approval for the project has to come from the federal government led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

In January the prime minister appeared to throw his weight behind the project.

Mr Vajpayee said then that the country had made significant progress in science and technology and India's scientific development should be strong enough to realise its dream of sending a man to the moon.

In September 2002, India successfully launched its first weather satellite which it hopes will help the country to predict cyclones and storms more accurately.

In 2001, it successfully tested its first geostationary launch vehicle, which is capable of launching bigger satellites into a higher orbit.

Only the United States, Russia and Japan have carried out lunar missions.

China has announced that it will start manned space exploration later this year.

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