India's first moon probe, Chandrayan-1, is expected to be ready for launch in 2008. Go-ahead for the mission was announced by Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his Independence Day address on 15 August.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) expects the probe to be the forerunner of more ambitious planetary missions, including landing robots on the moon, and visits by Indian spacecraft to other planets in the solar system. The Chandrayan Pratham mission envisages placing a small remote-sensing satellite in a polar orbit 100km (62 miles) above the surface of the moon. The 525kg (1,160lb) spacecraft will be launched by a modified version of India's indigenous Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The main mission objective is to obtain high-resolution surface images, but India has made provisions to accommodate instruments from other countries.

The ISRO, meanwhile, plans to launch a 500kg reusable spacecraft in 2005 using the four-stage PSLV. The craft will remain in orbit for a month to conduct experiments in materials processing and life sciences, says G Madhavan Nair, director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabahi Space Centre, India's largest space establishment. China, Russia and the USA are among the handful of countries capable of launching reusable spacecraft.

Source: Flight International