SRIHARIKOTA, India (Reuters) - India launched its first unmanned moon mission on Wednesday following in the footsteps of rival China, as the emerging Asian power celebrated its space ambitions and scientific prowess.
Chandrayaan-1 (Moon vehicle), a cuboid spacecraft built by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) blasted off from a southern Indian space center shortly after dawn in a boost for the country's ambitions to gain more global space business.
Chinese astronauts were feted as national heroes last month after their country's first space walk, and India did not want to be left behind.
"What we have started is a remarkable journey," G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of ISRO, told reporters.
India's national television channels broadcast the event live. Some scientists thumped their chests, hugged each other and clapped as the rocket shot up into space.
Greeted with patriotism in the media, the launch appeared to have helped India regain its self-confidence, which has taken a beating in recent weeks amid signs of an economic slowdown as well as international criticism over Hindu attacks on Christians.
Perhaps remarkably in a country where hundreds of millions of people still live in desperate poverty and millions of children remain malnourished, the cost of the moon mission has scarcely been questioned