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India to send mission to moon before 2008
( 2003-08-16 16:54) (Agencies)

India will send an unmanned mission to the moon by 2008, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said on Friday, in what is seen as an effort to showcase the country's scientific capabilities.

"India is ready to take a big leap in science," Vajpayee said in his Independence Day anniversary address to the nation. "I am happy to announce that before 2008 India will send a mission to the moon."

"It will be called 'Chandrayan Pratham' (First Journey to the Moon)," he said.

The mission is expected to cost New Delhi about US$80 million.

A proposal to send a spacecraft to the moon was first mooted by the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation three years ago and the agency began a feasibility study in 2001.

India considers its success in the space programme as a matter of prestige for a poor country where millions are homeless and uneducated.

Critics of the proposal have said the mission is unnecessary for a poor nation as it will not yield any new scientific benefits.

Only the United States, Russia and Japan have sent missions to the moon to date.

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