Indian Space Research Organization/AP

India Celebrates Moon Launch

October 23, 2008 01:27 PM
by Isabel Cowles
India launched its first lunar mission on Oct. 22, marking the success of its space program and the continuation of the Asian space race.

India’s Entry into the Asian Space Race

India celebrated the launch of its first successful lunar mission, illustrating the boom in space exploration by Asian countries.

The head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Madhavan Nair, noted the historic occasion and called it “a remarkable performance by the launch vehicle.”

The Chandrayaan-1 is an unmanned shuttle on a two-year mission. When it reaches the moon’s orbit in approximately 15 days, Chandrayaan-1 will begin mapping the mineral, chemical and topographical landscape of the lunar surface, searching specifically for water and precious metals.

India’s mission follows unmanned lunar missions by Japan and China. According to a report by U.K. paper The Guardian, “As well as seeking a larger share of the commercial satellite launch market, India, Japan and China see their space programmes as important for creating an image of powerful nation-states.”
Many claim that the Asian space race has been marked by security questions and suspicion instead of collaboration. According to Bates Gill, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the advances create “more competition because of the lingering security concerns all three countries have about one another. Because of the military relevance of space missions and technology, real cooperation will be difficult."

Despite security concerns, China, Japan, India and South Korea have all announced plans to continue space exploration. According to the chief scientist for China's lunar program, Ouyang Ziyuan, "Lunar exploration is a reflection of a country's comprehensive national power and is significant for raising our international prestige and increasing our people's cohesion."

Background: ‘Today’s Space Race’

A new kind of space race has been going on in Asia for several years, as China and Japan compete to be the regional superpower. At the same time, NASA is diversifying its programs, turning a scientific eye to climate change and other topical matters.

Related Topic: U.S. and China in unofficial space race?

Some U.S. representatives are concerned that the U.S. and China are engaged in an unspoken space race. In 2006 now-former Congressman Tom DeLay asserted, "We have a space race going on right now and the American people are totally unaware of all this," a Texas Republican who represented the district that includes Houston's Johnson Space Center.

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