via MSNBC, the nation of India has launched a spacecraft intended to provide much clearer mapping of the Moon. The science instruments are intended to not only map the surface, but examine the subsurface for minerals. It is India's first lunar mission, and the craft carries two instruments designed in partnership with US Sapce Agency NASA.
"Until now, India's space launches have mainly carried weather warning satellites and communication systems, said former NASA associate administrator Scott Pace, director of space policy at the George Washington University. "You're seeing India lifting its sights," Pace said. While much of the technology involved in reaching the moon has not changed since the Soviet Union and the U.S. did it more than four decades ago, analysts say new mapping equipment allows the exploration of new areas, including below the surface."
Japan and China have also both launched recent missions to the Moon, and the US is expected to follow with its Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter next year. The most comperehensive current lunar maps are those made over 40 years ago for the Apollo misisons. While the poles of Mars have been thoroughly mapped, the lunar poles have yet to be, even though one plan for a manned expedition to the moon involves construction of a settlement at the south pole. China has also put a man in space and conducted a spacewalk, and demonstrated an anti-satellite capability in earth's orbit in an effort to gain international prestige. India's space program appears to be designed more in efforts to develop technology and economic advantage.