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India launches spacecraft to study the sun after successful landing near the moon's south pole


NEW DELHI (AP) — India launched its first space mission to study the sun on Saturday, less than two weeks after a successful uncrewed landing near the south polar region of the moon.

The Aditya-L1 spacecraft took off on board a satellite launch vehicle from the Sriharikota space center in southern India on a quest to study the sun from a point about 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from earth.

The spacecraft is equipped with seven payloads to study the sun’s corona, chromosphere, photosphere and solar wind, the Indian Space Research Organization said.

India became the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole on Aug. 23 — a historic voyage to uncharted territory that scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water. After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India joined the United States, the Soviet Union and China as only the fourth country to achieve this milestone.

The sun study, combined with India's successful moon landing, would completely change the image of ISRO in the world community, said Manish Purohit, a former ISRO scientist.

The Aditya-L1 was headed for the L1 point of the Earth-Sun system, which affords an uninterrupted view of the sun, ISRO said. “This will provide a greater advantage of observing solar activities and their effect on space weather in real-time.”

Once in place, the satellite would provide reliable forewarning of an onslaught of particles and radiation from heightened solar activity that has the potential to knock out power grids on Earth, said B.R. Guruprasad, a space scientist, in an article in The Times of India newspaper. The advanced warning can protect the satellites that are the backbone of global economic structure as well as the people living in space stations.

“Those seven payloads are going to study the sun as a star in all the possible spectrum positions that we have visible, ultraviolet, and X-ray. … It’s like we’re going to get a black and white image, the color image and the high-definition image, 4K image of the sun, so that we don’t miss out on anything that is happening on the sun,” Purohit said.


AP videojournalist Shonal Ganguly contributed.