India on Wednesday became the sixth nation to launch a moon mission when indigenously built PSLV-C11 rocket blasted off from the spaceport here carrying with it Chandrayaan-I, which will map the lunar surface.
Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) home-grown rocket PSLV-C11 lifted off at 6.22 a.m. from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre taking the spacecraft beyond the thick dark cloud cover over this coastal town.
After 18.2 minutes, ISRO's warhorse rocket had injected Chandrayaan-I, its maiden moon mission, in the earth orbit.
With the launch, India joined the elite club of moon faring nations -- the US , Russia , European Space Agency , China and Japan .
"The launch was perfect and precise. The satellite has been placed in the earth orbit.
"With this, we have completed the first leg of the mission and it will take 15 days to reach the lunar orbit," ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair said.
President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of the Opposition L K Advani congratulated space scientists on the successful launch.
Chandrayaan-I is carrying an Indian flag which will be placed on the lunar surface when the Moon Impactor Probe lands on the moon during the course of the two-year mission.
"Our baby is on the way to the moon," Chandrayaan-I spacecraft director Mylswamy Annadurai said after the satellite was injected in the Transfer Orbit with a perigee of about 250 km and apogee of about 23,000 km, about 19 minutes.
About 18 minutes after liftoff, Chandrayaan-I separated from the rocket and began circling the earth in an elliptical orbit powered by its own engines.
At opportune moments, space scientists tracking the mission will fire the spacecraft's Liquid Apogee Motors (LAM) repeatedly to take it into more elliptical orbits.
Subsequently, the LAM would be again fired to take the spacecraft till it reaches 387,000 km from earth which is called the Lunar Transfer Orbit (LTO).
After Chandrayaan-1 reaches the LTO, its LAM would be fired again so as to slow down the spacecraft sufficiently to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit.
The next step would be to reduce the height of the spacecraft orbit around the moon in various steps.
After some more procedures, Chandrayaan-1's orbit would be finally lowered to its intended 100 km height from the lunar surface, which is expected to take place around November 8.
Later, the Moon Impact Probe would be ejected from Chandrayaan-1 in a chosen area following which the cameras and other payloads would be turned on and thoroughly tested, marking the operational phase of the mission.
The MIP will not survive the fall but demonstrate technologies for a future soft-landing mission. During its crash on the lunar surface, the MIP will send high resolution images of the moon and also analyse terrain.
Of the 11 instruments carried by the satellite, five are Indian, three are from the European Space Agency, two from the US -- including a radar that can search for ice under lunar poles -- and one from Bulgaria .
Beyond 3-D mapping the moon and scanning for mineral deposits, the mission will test systems for a future moon landing