Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 11:47 UK

Date set for Indian Moon mission

By Sunil Raman
BBC News, Delhi

India's first unmanned mission to the moon, Chandrayaan, is unveiled in Bangalore on 18 Sept 2008
The craft will survey the moon's surface

India will launch its first unmanned mission to the Moon on 22 October, the country's space officials say, weather conditions permitting.

The spacecraft, named Chandrayaan-1, will orbit the Moon, surveying its surface with high-resolution equipment.

The launch had been scheduled for April, but was pushed back due to technical problems.

The project will cost $83m and has the direct involvement of six other countries, including the US and Europe.

Over the next two years, it will survey the lunar surface to produce a complete map of its chemical characteristics and its three-dimensional topography.

The European Space Agency (Esa) is supporting the mission, supplying three instruments.

These will investigate the Moon's surface and near-surface composition, and the way the lunar body interacts with the fast-moving particles streaming away from the Sun.

Chandrayaan-1 will also drop a small impact probe on to the lunar surface to test its properties.

'Over ambitious'

India announced its Moon mission in 2003.

It has also announced plans to send a man to the Moon in the next few years.

The government's lunar activities have not been welcomed by all, however.

Critics say it is "over ambitious" and a "waste of resources" in a country where millions still lack basic services.

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, telecommunications and weather forecasting.

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

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