CHENNAI, India, Oct. 22 -- India began its first lunar mission on Wednesday, a moment of national pride that confirmed the country's place as an emerging power in the new Asian space race.
Through heavy morning clouds, the unmanned Chandrayaan-1 -- which means "moon craft" in Sanskrit -- was launched from the Sriharikota space center on an island in southern India, about 60 miles from Chennai.
"This is a historic moment for India," Indian Space Research Organization Chairman G. Madhavan Nair told crowds of clapping onlookers and reporters. "It's a remarkable moment to try to unravel the mysteries of the moon."
Only the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China have sent missions to the moon. China became the first Asian country to put its own astronauts into space in 2003 and last month achieved its first spacewalk. As a rival of China's, India wants to join the superpowers that have dominated space for more than 40 years and hopes to put two Indians into space by 2015.