For Indians, there just couldÃÂve been no better Diwali gift - for, exactly on schedule at 6.22 am on October 22 this year, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C 11), carrying Chandrayaan-1, IndiaÃÂs most prestigious space payload to date - shot off for the moon to the accompaniment of bright orange fumes, from the launchpad in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
IndiaÃÂs first lunar mission, with its two-year life cycle hopes to grab high-resolution images of the moon`s topography and making a headlong dive into the international space race.
Chandrayaan-1, the lunar orbiter is carrying payloads from the United States, European Union countries Germany, Britain, Sweden and Bulgaria, and India plans to share the data from the mission with other space programs, including NASA.
This moon mission is unique by itself in several ways; it is perhaps the most ambitious attempt by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the three decades of its existence - the moon, shimmering 3,84,467 km away from the earth, is 10 times farther than any ISRO rocket has reached till date and the sojourn involves a series of highly complex and sophisticated assignments.
Twenty two days later, when ISROÃÂs probe made it to the lunar orbit on November 15, India joined a select club including the likes of America, Russia, Europe, Japan and China who have had successful lunar missions to their credit ÃÂ marking what Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, would himself call ÃÂa giant leapÃÂ - for ISRO.
Image: Chandrayaan-1, India`s first unmanned spacecraft to the moon in Sriharikota. (PTI)