Scientists have better maps of distant Mars than the moon where astronauts have walked. But India hopes to change that with its first lunar mission.
Chandrayaan-1 - which means "Moon Craft" in ancient Sanskrit - is scheduled to launch from the Sriharikota space center in southern India at 8:20 p.m. EDT Tuesday in a two-year mission aimed at laying the groundwork for further Indian space expeditions.
Chief among the mission's goals is mapping not only the surface of the moon, but what lies beneath. If the launch is successful, India will join what's shaping up as a 21st century space race with Chinese and Japanese crafts already in orbit around the moon.
The United States, which won the 1960s race to send men to the moon, won't jump in this race with its new lunar probe until next spring, but it is providing key mapping equipment for India's mission.