India launched its first mission to dig deep into the sun’s workings, marking another win for the country’s space program that recently delivered a successful moon landing.
(Bloomberg) — India launched its first mission to dig deep into the sun’s workings, marking another win for the country’s space program that recently delivered a successful moon landing.
The solar observation mission — Aditya-L1 — lifted off from India’s main spaceport on Sriharikota, an island off the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, at around 11:50 a.m. local time on Saturday.
The spacecraft is starting a 125-day journey to get to its destination, a point that’s 1.5 million kilometers (932,000 miles) from Earth but still just a fraction of the 150 million km distance between Earth and the sun.
The solar probe is helping ISRO, India’s space agency, notch up its second feat in less than a month after the country beat others to the lunar south pole in late August. India’s advancement in the global space race could be beneficial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he prepares to face general elections next year.
India’s other ongoing projects include a human spaceflight program that aims to launch astronauts into orbit for the first time possibly by 2025, ISRO Chairman S Somanath said in an interview with news agency Asian News International.
ISRO and NASA plan to cooperate on sending astronauts to the International Space Station and India is in talks with Japan to work together on a moon mission. Modi has said ISRO will launch an uncrewed Venus mission.
Aditya-L1 is headed to a halo orbit around one of five Lagrange points, areas known as parking spots in space because probes can orbit them in a constant pattern while conserving fuel. From there, Aditya-L1 will have an undisturbed view of the sun and observe in real time its effect on environmental conditions in the vicinity of Earth and other planets.
With the solar mission, India has joined a small group of countries with probes studying the sun.
China has two such spacecraft orbiting Earth, including the Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory launched last year to investigate solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
Hinode, backed by space agencies from Japan, the UK, the US and Europe, is also orbiting Earth and measuring the magnetic fields of the sun.
Meanwhile, the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory mission or SOHO, a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency, is near the same Lagrange point that Aditya-L1 is headed for. Another joint US-European mission, Solar Orbiter, is programmed to travel as close as about 42 million km from the sun.
–With assistance from Shruti Srivastava.
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