A 44-metre-tall and 316-tonne rocket
called the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV C11) carried the 1,380-kg lunar orbiter Chandrayaan 1 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at around 0620 hrs IST.
"Eighteen minutes into the flight the rocket will sling the spacecraft into the 255-km perigee (nearest point to earth) and 23,000 km apogee
(farthest point from earth) path to script a new history in the annals of India's space odyssey," S Satish, director of ISRO’s Publications and Press Relations department, told IANS hours before the launch.
From there the spacecraft will be taken into more elliptical orbits, firing its onboard motor—technically called Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM)—towards the moon, 387,000 km from the earth.
Once the spacecraft nears the moon, the LAM will be fired in reverse to slow it down to enable the moon's gravity to capture Chandrayaan 1 into an elliptical orbit around the lunar poles.
Thereafter the spacecraft's orbit will be gradually lowered till it is 100 km above the moon's surface.
That is expected to happen around November 8.
On November 14 the spacecraft will eject an important piece of luggage on to the moon's surface: the moon impact Probe (MIP).
A principal objective of Chandrayaan is to look for Helium 3,
an isotope which is very rare on earth but is sought to power nuclear fusion and could be a valuable source of energy in the future, some scientists believe. It is thought to be more plentiful on the moon, but still rare and very difficult to extract.
The Rs 386-crore mission is also expected to carry out a detailed survey of the moon to look for precious metals and water. "We are going to get a three-dimensional atlas of the moon's surface, which will be used for chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface,"
Bhaskar Narayan, an ISRO director told Reuters.
While much of the technology involved in reaching the moon has not changed, analysts say current mapping equipment allows for the exploration of new areas, including below the surface.
Of the 11 instruments carried by Chandrayaan, five are Indian, three are from the European Space Agency, two from the US and one from Bulgaria.
(Plus a couple of worms from Pakistan)
NASA is sending up a Mini Synthetic Aperture Radar that can search for ice — an important resource for any human settlements — under the lunar poles.
India is the sixth nation to send a nation to send a mission to moon after the US, former Soviet Union, European Space Agency, China and Japan. The United States is the only nation to have landed a man on the lunar surface, doing so for the first time in 1969.