The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is beginning a six-month feasibility study into launching an unmanned mission to the moon in 2005.

Its 350kg (770lb) craft, to be launched by an uprated Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle booster with an extra upper stage, would "demonstrate to the world that India is capable of taking up a complex mission that is at the cutting edge of space", says ISRO. The spacecraft is likely to be a lunar orbiter equipped with cameras and science instruments.

The proposed mission is already coming under criticism from Indian officials, who point out that ISRO has been slow to commercialise its space activities. Doubts are also being expressed as to whether building satellites should be the preserve of ISRO. Some private companies believe the agency needs to speed up its programmes or make way for others.

Source: Flight International