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NASA, ISRO sign historic accord

This will allow US to send two payloads on board Chandrayaan-I, India's first unmanned moon mission in 2008.

india Updated: May 09, 2006 13:05 IST

US space agency NASA entered into an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Tuesday to send two scientific instruments on board Chandrayaan-I, the country's first unmanned moon mission scheduled for 2008.

NASA administrator Michael Griffin signed the MoU (memorandum of understanding) with ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair to send a mini synthetic aperture radar (miniSAR), developed by the agency's applied physics laboratory and a moon mineralogy mapper, built by the jet propulsion laboratory, an ISRO official said.

According to an official, the American instruments will be part of the Chandrayaan payload, which will have 15-20 instruments, including 11 from India and three from the European Space Agency. The lunar mission is to be launched in 2007-08.

A five-member NASA delegation, led by Griffin, will also hold discussions with ISRO officials on extending the Indo-US cooperation in space exploration as agreed during the visit of US President George W Bush to India in March.

During the Bush trip, both the countries had agreed to continue exploring cooperation in civil space, including areas such as space exploration, satellite navigation, and earth science.

The official said NASA had evinced interest in joining India's moon mission project.

Michael F O'Brien, NASA assistant administrator, will discuss with Indian space scientists the experiments to be conducted by the two US instruments on board Chandrayaan-I, which will circle around the lunar planet.

"Project work on the moon mission is on course. Most of our instruments are at various stages of development. Some of them are meant to map the lunar surface and study its mineral content. The spacecraft has already been designed for fabrication over the next 12 months along with its sub-systems," the official said.

Chandrayaan-I will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on the east coast of Andhra Pradesh, using the new polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV).