India aims to become front runner in space development

India's space program took another stride forward on Saturday with the launch of its first solar observation satellite. That follows the first successful landing of an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon's south pole last month.

The Indian Space Research Organisation says the Aditya-L1 spacecraft took off from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh around noon on Saturday, local time.

Aditya is the ancient Indian Sanskrit word for the Sun.

The spacecraft will travel for about four months to reach an observation point about 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth.

The spacecraft is equipped with devices that use ultraviolet light and X-rays, and will observe the Sun's atmospheric conditions. It will also study flares, or explosions that create surges on the Sun's surface.

Fourth country to land on the Moon

Last month, India became the fourth country to successfully land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon, after the former Soviet Union, the United States and China.

India landed the Chandrayaan-3 near the Moon's south pole in August.

What attracted more attention was the landing site. It was the first time anyone had managed to land on the rugged south pole.

The area receives no sunlight and experts say water may exist there in the form of ice.

Images of the Moon taken by NASA show blue parts believed to be ice.

If ice is found, it could be used as water for daily use and fuel in the future.

ISRO chairman S Somanath says "ultimately human beings want to go and create colonies on the Moon. The best place is something we are looking for. The south pole has the potential to be that."

India's space agency has already announced some progress. It says its moon rover has detected the presence of sulfur and other elements, including oxygen, iron, calcium and aluminum, near the pole last week.

Lunar probe competition

India is not the only country getting involved in lunar exploration.

Russia launched its first lunar probe in nearly half a century last month, aiming to make a first landing on the south pole. But the unmanned Luna-25 crashed into the Moon.

A NASA spacecraft has found the likely crash site of Russia's lost lunar lander.

A Japanese venture firm attempted to land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon in April but also crashed.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, planned to launch an H2A rocket carrying a probe that would attempt to make the nation's first lunar landing last week. That mission was postponed because of the weather.

Tokyo's PwC Consulting is forecasting that business on or around the Moon will escalate from around 2030 in the fields of construction, infrastructure development and energy. The company estimates the market scale could reach 170 billion dollars by 2040.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been championing the country's space mission.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a message saying, "After the success of Chandrayaan-3, India continues its space journey," and, "Our tireless scientific efforts will continue in order to develop better understanding of the Universe for the welfare of entire humanity."