Friday, November 14, 2008

Indian probe lands on moon, sends images

BANGALORE, India (AFP) — An Indian probe landed on the moon on Friday, the Indian Space Research Organisation announced, in a milestone for the country's 45-year-old space programme.

The probe touched down on the moon at 8:34pm (1504 GMT), 25 minutes after it was ejected from an unmanned spacecraft orbiting the moon, spokesman S. Satish said.

"During its descent from Chandrayaan-1 an onboard video camera transmitted lunar pictures to the ISRO command centre," Satish said in the southern Indian city of Bangalore where the national space agency is headquartered.

Scientists monitoring the probe cheered as ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair announced the success of the country's first lunar mission, which began on October 22 when a rocket transported Chandrayaan-1 into space.

The probe, carrying three instruments and with the Indian flag painted on its outer panes, settled in a crater in the moon's south pole.

Nair said the landing was perfect.

"We have now successfully put our national flag on the lunar surface," he told a news conference.

"The moon has been very favourable to us and this is a very productive and fruitful mission," he said, and added: "We have also emerged as a low-cost travel agency to space," referring to the mission's 80-million dollar tag.

Chandrayaan-1 is on a two-year orbital mission to provide a detailed map of the mineral, chemical and topographical characteristics of the moon's surface.

Buoyed by its success, ISRO plans to send a second unmanned spacecraft to the moon in 2012 and separately launch satellites to study Mars and Venus.

India started its space programme in 1963, developing its own satellites and launch vehicles to reduce dependence on overseas agencies.

It first staked its case for a share of the commercial launch market by sending an Italian satellite into orbit in April last year. In January, it launched an Israeli spy satellite.

India is also hoping the mission will boost its space programme into the same league as regional powerhouses Japan and China.

As well as looking to grab a larger slice of the global commercial satellite launch market, India, Japan and China also see their space programmes as an important symbol of their international stature and economic development.

But India still has a long way to go to catch up with China which, together with the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency, is already well established in the commercial launch sector.

China's immediate goal is the establishment of a space lab, with Beijing's long-term ambition to develop a rival to the International Space Station, a project involving the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and some European countries.

Japan has also been boosting its space programme and has set a goal of sending an astronaut to the moon by 2020.

Japan's first lunar probe, Kaguya, was successfully launched in September last year, releasing two baby satellites to study lunar gravity and other projects.
Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved

Can the Congress make a comeback?

The first phase of polling in Chhattisgarh will decide the fate of Chief Minister Raman Singh from the Rajnandgaon seat. Singh became the Chief Minister in 2003, after the BJP defeated the Ajit Jogi-led Congress government.

The BJP won 50 seats in the November 2003 elections. Ajit Jogi had been in power since the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.

Polling will be held in five districts of Bastar region - Rajnandgaon, Kawardha, Durg, Mahasamund and Dhamtari. The state has a total of 90 seats and polling for the remaining 51 seats will be held on 20th November.

Development being his poll plank, Raman Singh is relying on his administration’s welfare measures such as selling rice at Rs 3 per kilo to the poor.

On the other hand, the Congress has made corruption, law and order and killings of tribals its campaign theme. Ajit Jogi is contesting from Marwahi, which will go to the polls in the second phase of elections.

Fearing disruption by Maoists, Chhattisgarh has stepped up security in the 39 constituencies, including those contested by chief minister Raman Singh and opposition leader Mahendra Karma
Twelve of the 39 constituencies are in the Bastar region where the Maoists are particularly active.

Unlike in other constituencies, polling in these will begin at 7am and end at 3pm to enable poll officials to complete the process before sunset. In the other constituencies, polling will begin at 8am and end at 5pm.

The Bastar region has seen at least 1,100 deaths since 2004 in violence attributed to Maoists.

Chief minister Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is contesting from Rajnandgaon, and Congress partys Karma is contesting from Dantewada in Bastar. Singh became chief minister in 2003 after the BJP defeated Ajit Jogi-led Congress party that had power since the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.

In the previous election, the BJP had won 52 seats, Congress 34, and the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Nationalist Congress Party one each.

The incumbent, Singh, is banking on his administrations developmental initiatives and welfare measures, including populist ones such as selling rice at Rs3 a kg to the poor. The Congress, on the other hand, is seeking a vote for change.

The first phase polling will decide the fate of Chief Minister Raman Singh from Rajnandgaon seat, leader of the opposition and Congress candidate Mahendra Karma from Dantewada and assembly Speaker Premprakash Pandey from Bhilai.

Some 6.4 million of Chhattisgarhs 15.2 million voters are expected to cast their ballots in 8,883 polling booths on Friday, according to data released by the Election Commission of India.

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