Who backed Obama
By Steve Schifferes
BBC News, Washington
Senator Barack Obama won the election by gaining an extraordinary level of support among young people, African-Americans and new voters, exit polls show.
Senator John McCain maintained his lead among older voters and evangelicals, but his lead among men evaporated.
The figures from the National Election exit poll, based on interviews with voters at polling stations around the country, show that Mr Obama succeeded in mobilising his key supporters.
And they suggest that the economy was overwhelming the most important issue for voters.
Mr Obama had an unprecedented level of support among young people and new voters in the 2008 election.
He won the votes of those under 30 by an impressive 66% to 31%, much higher than in any previous election.
He also has a huge majority of those who voted for the first time, who supported him by 71% to 29%.
This compares to just a slight advantage that the Democrats had in this group in 2004, when John Kerry won new voters by 53% to 46%.
Mr McCain retained the Republican advantage among older voters but lost among the middle-aged, who had supported President George W Bush in 2004.
Mr Obama has succeeded in mobilising African-American voters to his cause to an unprecedented extent, although they were already strongly Democratic.
He won 95% of the black vote, compared to just 4% for Mr McCain.
And he has also built up a big advantage among Hispanic voters, whom Mr Bush partly succeeded in winning over in 2004.
The Democrats led 66% to 31% among these voters, their best-ever result, compared to a 60-40 split in 2004.
Mr McCain led slightly among white voters, by 55% to 43%, but Mr Obama cut the Republican lead among this group compared with the 2004 election.
Barack Obama has made a strong showing among women, exceeding the normal Democratic advantage, while fighting a virtually even battle among men, who went heavily Republican in 2004.
Mr Obama won 56% of the female vote, compared with 51% of women who voted for John Kerry last time.
And he was essentially tied among men, erasing the 55% to 45% advantage that President Bush enjoyed in 2004.
Larry Sabato, political science professor at the University of Virginia, says that the Democrat’s appeal to women has been one of the most important keys to his success.
One group that Mr McCain has held on to are evangelical Christians, who make up about one quarter of the electorate.
This group voted by three-to-one for the Republicans despite attempts by Mr Obama to reach out to faith groups – little changed from the previous two elections.
Larry Sabato adds that Sarah Palin’s nomination as vice-presidential candidate helped secure this group for Mr McCain.
However, she may have been a negative for his campaign as a whole.
Over 60% of those surveyed said she was not qualified to be president if necessary, compared with 38% who said she was.
The exit polls suggest that the economy was by far the dominant concern in the election, with 62% citing it as the most important issue facing the US.
Only 10% cited Iraq and 9% terrorism, two issues that dominated the headlines one year ago, while 9% cited healthcare.
Asked what what they thought of the state of the economy, those who said it was in the direst straits were also the strongest backers of Mr Obama.
Larry Sabato says that, barring other factors, a struggling economy has been a strong predictor of success for the party that is out of power.
The enthusiasm gap
Perhaps the biggest factor in deciding the election was the enthusiasm gap – the difference between the intensity of feeling between McCain and Obama supporters.
One-third of the Obama voters were “excited” by the prospect of his victory, as opposed to just 14% of McCain voters.
That enthusiasm translated into more personal contacts, with twice as many Obama supporters having been contacted in person as McCain supporters.
And 80% of those contacted did in the end vote for the Democrat, suggesting targeting paid off.
The National Election Exit Poll is a sample of 10,500 voters surveyed on election day after they have left the polling booth on behalf of AP and the major US TV networks.
PSLV-C11 On Launch Pad
|PSLV-C11 on Launch Pad|
|PSLV-C11 on its way to launchpad|
|PSLV-C11 on its way to launchpad from Vehicle Assembly Building|
|PSLV-C11 comming out from Vehicle Assembly Building|
|PSLV-C11 at Vehicle Assembly Building|
PSLV-C11 Third and Fourth Stages
|Close-up view of PSLV-C11 fourth stage|
|PSLV-C11 Vehicle stacked up to fourth stage|
|Hoisting of third and fourth stages of PSLV-C11|
PSLV-C11 Second Stage
|Hoisting of PSLV-C11 Second Stage|
|PSLV-C11 Second Stage with its VIKAS engine|
PSLV-C11 First Stage
|Loading of PSLV-C11 First Stage Nozzle End Segment|
|PSLV-C11 First Stage Nozzle End Segment on its way to Vehicle Assembly Building|
|Positioning of PSLV-C11 First Stage Nozzle End Segment over launch pedestal|
|Unloading a PSLV-C11 strap-on from transporter at Vehicle Assembly Building|
|Fully Assembled First Stage surrounded by strap-ons of PSLV-C11|
Q&A: How US results are reported
American voters in San Diego cast their ballots
How will the BBC report the results of the US election? This guide explains where the results come from, what exit polls are, and how states are called.
What is the source for the BBC’s election results?
The Associated Press is providing the election result data for BBC News.
The AP is the sole organisation responsible for providing the results for the major American media networks. The information they provide will form the basis for election results but different broadcasters may decide to interpret partial results in different ways.
The BBC will report state results based on AP and one other major US media network, or our close partners ABC News alone.
How do the results take shape and what are “projected results”?
Initially the outcome of the US election is likely to be a “projection”, based on exit polls and/or partial results. This means the result will be labelled as projected until all the votes are counted.
The reason for this is that states are often called, or declared, for a candidate, on the basis of incomplete figures. The American electoral system enables each state to release partial results to the public well before they have counted every single vote. Results are later confirmed once all the votes have come in.
For races that are not very close the US networks are likely to project a winner as soon as the polls close, based on exit poll data. For closer races the US networks will wait until there’s more actual vote data. It can take hours or even all night.
If a projection is not immediate, it doesn’t mean it is ‘too close to call’, rather it may simply be ‘too early to call’ because the networks have insufficient data.
Are the projections ever wrong?
Yes, particularly if the election is very close. Most memorably the major US networks, including Fox, CNN, NBC, CBS, and ABC gave Florida to Al Gore in 2000, only to retract that and then give it to George W Bush, and then to retract that while the result was under dispute.
What is an exit poll?
Exit polls are gathered by speaking to members of the public after they have voted. They are used in two main ways.
They can help predict the outcome of an election before all the votes are counted and they may also include information on demographics. For example, they could show which candidate appealed most to women voters, or who got the most support from the Hispanic community.
This year exit polls are being handled solely by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
The BBC does not have access to the detailed exit poll data.
Is Washington DC a state?
No. DC, or the District of Columbia, is not a state, but it does receive three electoral college votes. DC is able to vote for president but it does not have senators or congressmen of its own.
Q&A: The US Electoral College
Electoral College votes will decide the winner of the election
An American president is not chosen directly by the people. Instead, an Electoral College is used. In a close election, the importance of the College grows.
How does the Electoral College work?
Each state has a number of electors in the Electoral College equal to the total of its US senators (always two) and its representatives, which are determined by the size of the state’s population. Technically, Americans vote for the electors not the candidate.
California, the most populous state, has 55 electoral votes. A few small states and the District of Columbia have only three.
There are 538 electors in the College. In all but two states, Maine and Nebraska, the College works on a winner-takes-all basis. The winner of the popular vote in a state gets all the Electoral College votes in that state.
To become president, a candidate needs 270 Electoral College votes. The winning candidate does not need to win the national popular vote.
Why was the system chosen?
When the United States was founded, a national campaign was almost impossible given the communications; states were jealous of their rights; political parties were suspect and the popular vote somewhat feared.
The framers of the Constitution in 1787 rejected both the election of the president by Congress – because of the separation of powers – and election by direct popular vote, on the grounds that people would vote for their local candidate and the big states would dominate.
Another factor was that Southern states favoured the College system. Slaves had no votes but counted as three-fifths of a person for computing the size of a state’s population.
The original idea was that only the great and the good in each state would make up the electors in the Electoral College. Over the years the College has been changed to better reflect the popular will.
Isn’t it unfair that the winning candidate might get fewer popular votes?
This is seen as a major drawback of the system. In 2000 Al Gore won 48.38% of votes nationwide compared to George Bush’s 47.87%. Ralph Nader took 2.74%. Yet Mr Bush won because he got 271 Electoral College votes compared to 266 for Mr Gore. The winning votes came from Florida whose 25 College seats all went to Mr Bush despite the difference between the two in the state’s popular vote being only 537.
A similar thing happened in 1888 when Benjamin Harrison won in the College despite having fewer popular votes than Grover Cleveland.
Another drawback is that in many states the result is a foregone conclusion and there is thus little incentive for the individual to vote. It is also a disincentive for candidates to campaign there.
So what are the advantages?
The Electoral College system is respected for its historical roots and because it does usually reflect the popular vote. It also gives greater weight to smaller states – one of the checks and balances the US Constitution values.
For example, the largest state, California, has 12.03% of the US population but its 55 Electoral College votes represent only 10.22% of the College total. Wyoming, a sparsely populated state, has 0.18% of the US population but its three seats in the Electoral College give it 0.56% of the College votes.
The College system also means that a candidate needs to get a spread of votes from across the country.
What happens if no candidate gets a majority of Electoral College votes?
The decision is taken by the House of Representatives, because its seats are in proportion to the population and therefore reflects the popular will better than the Senate. Each state delegation, however, has only one vote, which means that the majority party in each delegation controls the vote. An absolute majority of states is required for election.
The vice-president is chosen by the Senate, with senators having an individual vote.
Are the electors in the College bound to vote for their candidates?
In some states they have a free vote but in practice they vote for the candidates they are pledged to. In other states they are required to do so. From time to time, individuals or small groups, called “faithless” electors, vote for another candidate but this has happened only rarely and no result has been changed by it. In 2000 an elector from the District of Columbia abstained.
If the result is extremely close, a “faithless” elector could cause real trouble. The issue would probably have to be decided by the courts.
The electors are chosen by the parties before the election, often in a vote at a convention. The electors then meet in state capitals after the election (this year on Monday, 13 December) to cast their votes. The results are formally declared to the Senate on 6 January. The new president is inaugurated on 20 January.
In quotes: US election reaction
Democratic Senator Barack Obama will take his place in the White House after a long and hard-fought campaign, defeating Republican rival John McCain to become the first black president of the United States.
Leaders from around the globe have been giving their reaction to this historic victory.
“We have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken and they have spoken clearly.
“A little while ago, I had the honour of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.
“Every candidate makes mistakes and I’m sure I made my share of them. But I won’t spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.
“This campaign was and will remain the great honour of my life.
“And my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience, and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Senator Obama and my old friend Senator Joe Biden should have the honour of leading us for the next four years.”
“Mr President-elect, congratulations to you. What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters.
“I promise to make this a smooth transition. You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations and go enjoy yourself.”
“I give you my warmest congratulations and, through me, those of all French people. Your brilliant victory rewards a tireless commitment to serve the American people.
“It also crowns an exceptional campaign whose inspiration and exaltation have proved to the entire world the vitality of American democracy.
“By choosing you, the American people have chosen change, openness and optimism. At a time when all of us must face huge challenges together, your election raises great hope in France, in Europe and elsewhere in the world.”
“I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Barack Obama on winning the presidency of the United States.
“I would also like to pay tribute to Senator McCain who fought a good campaign and has shown the characteristic dignity that has marked a lifetime of service to his country.
“The relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is vital to our prosperity and security.
“Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energising politics with his progressive values and his vision for the future. I know Barack Obama, and we share many values.
“We both have determination to show that government can act to help people fairly through these difficult times facing the global economy. And I look forward to working extremely closely with him in the coming months and years.”
“This is a time for a renewed commitment between Europe and the United States of America. We need to change the current crisis into a new opportunity. We need a new deal for a new world.
“I sincerely hope that with the leadership of President Obama, the United States of America will join forces with Europe to drive this new deal – for the benefit of our societies, for the benefit of the world.
“France, Europe and the international community need his energy, his rejection of injustice and his determination to go forward to build a safer, fairer and more stable world.”
“I congratulate the people of America at this moment when they made history. A new generation has broken through the colour barriers in choosing Obama.
“The American people have presented a tremendous example to the world by ignoring racist attitudes – and this is an unprecedented example of democracy.
“We in Iraq, with our newly-born democracy, look forward to working with the United States.
“There are common interests between our two nations, and at the same time we appreciate and value the sacrifices of the present US administration. They are an investment for the future.”
“This is a momentous day not only in the history of the United States of America, but also for us in Kenya.
“The victory of Senator Obama is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya. As a country, we are full of pride for his success.
“We the Kenyan people are immensely proud of your Kenyan roots. Your victory is not only an inspiration to millions of people all over the world, but it has special resonance with us here in Kenya.
“I am confident that your presidency shall herald a new chapter of dialogue between the American people and the world at large.”
“I applaud the American people for their great decision and I hope that this new administration in the United States of America, and the fact of the massive show of concern for human beings and lack of interest in race and colour while electing the president, will go a long way in bringing the same values to the rest of world sooner or later.
“I applaud the American people once again and hope that this election and President Obama’s coming into office will bring peace to Afghanistan, life to Afghanistan and prosperity to the Afghan people and to the rest of the world.”
“In a new historical era, I look forward to taking our bilateral relationship of constructive co-operation to a new level.”
“President Abbas congratulates US President-elect Barack Obama in his name and in the name of the Palestinian people, and hopes he will speed up efforts to achieve peace, particularly since a resolution of the Palestinian problem and the Israeli-Arab conflict is key to world peace.
“President Abbas hopes the new administration will continue to make the peace efforts one of its top priorities.”
“As the world faces many difficult issues, I am sure that the United States, under the excellent leadership of President-elect Obama, will move further forward while co-operating with the international community.
“The Japan-US alliance is key to Japanese diplomacy and it is the foundation for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
“With President-elect Obama, I will strengthen the Japan-US alliance further and work towards resolving global issues such as the world economy, terror and the environment.”
“Twenty-five years ago Martin Luther King had a dream of an America where men and women would be judged not on the colour of their skin but on the content of their character.
“Today what America has done is turn that dream into a reality.”
“Israelis congratulate the two great friends of Israel, John McCain for his great campaign, Barack Obama for his historic victory.
“We are certain the Israeli-American friendship faces a bright future.”
“Senator Obama will be taking office at a critical juncture. There are many pressing challenges facing the international community, including the global financial crisis and global warming.
“We look forward to working closely with President-elect Obama and his team to address these challenges.”
“I am congratulating Barack Obama for his election as the president of the United States of America.
“I am hopeful that he will help end major crises in the world, particularly the endless conflict in my country Somalia.
“This was an historic election in which a proper leader was elected. This is a great moment for America and Africa.”
“I look forward to meeting with the president-elect so that we can continue to strengthen the special bond that exists between Canada and the United States.
“In the weeks and months ahead… ministers in our government look forward to building a strong working relationship with their counterparts in a new Obama cabinet.”
“President Asif Ali Zardari expressed the hope that Pakistan-US relations will be enhanced under the new American leadership that received a popular mandate in Tuesday’s poll.”
What kind of president will Obama be?
By Kevin Connolly
BBC Washington correspondent
Barack Obama faces tough economic and foreign policy challenges
History will remember Barack Obama for the change he personifies.
As America’s first black president he will write a new chapter in a long story that began in slavery and persecution and has not yet ended in equality.
But he is determined that history will remember him as an agent of change, not just as a symbol of it, and that will not be easy.
Mr Obama has been a brilliant candidate in many ways – the muscular poetry of his oratory is matched by his flair for the nuts and bolts of campaign organisation.
But he has been lucky too.
Even the banking crisis, which called into question the competence of Republican economic stewardship, came helpfully at a moment when he and John McCain were neck and neck in the polls.
He has not been lucky though in the circumstances which greet him as he takes office.
Funding the promises
The economy is in recession and the US, at war on two fronts overseas, faces profound questions that will require quick answers.
Mr Obama though will have at least one asset no other American president since Kennedy has enjoyed – a huge reservoir of international goodwill.
Mr Obama is inheriting a budget deficit running into hundreds of billions a year and a national debt which is about to go over the $11 trillion mark
That is based partly on the simple fact that he is not George W Bush and partly on the widely-held belief that in picking a black president the United States is somehow closing one of the darker chapters in its own past.
It is not clear of course how deep that reservoir might be nor how long it will last – and it will not help much with the most pressing problem of all, which is what to do about the US economy.
Mr Obama has promised a tax cut to 95% of Americans and plenty of other things that will cost money too – like better access to health care for the 45 million people here without insurance, and an army of new teachers, with improved salaries, for the school system.
None of that will be cheap – and Mr Obama is inheriting a budget deficit running into hundreds of billions a year and a national debt which is about to go above the $11 trillion (£6.9 trillion) mark.
Whether or not Mr Obama is able to keep his campaign promises, he will be drawing heavily on his extraordinary gift for communication – expect that to be one of the hallmarks of his time in office.
He is a gifted speaker and in times of national grief or doubt it is hugely important for Americans to have a president able to capture, shape and occasionally lift the national mood.
Those gifts will be equally important if President Obama finds himself in the depths of recession having to explain why campaign promises are being deferred or even dumped.
Obama has inspired great hope and high expectations in many black voters
How that goes down with the American people will depend on how successfully Mr Obama manages another of his campaign promises – the rather nebulous goal of bringing Americans together.
The new president sees himself as an essentially post-partisan figure and his rhetoric is filled with urgent talk of bringing together a fractured society so that young and old, black and white, rich and poor, and gay and straight all work together with a sense of common purpose.
On the campaign trail, this made Mr Obama seem psychologically interesting – almost as though he were yearning for the US to be a better version of itself. It will be interesting to see how he intends to bring that vision to life in a country where there are still profound racial divisions and which thrives on the vigour of its competitive political process.
Look out for widespread use of the internet in the implementation of the Obama vision, by the way. Mr Obama’s campaign was creative in using the web to raise funds and drum up an army of volunteers – he might have something similar in mind for his presidency.
Mr Obama will find himself tested and perhaps defined by foreign policy issues just as his predecessor was.
He is going to need all the many gifts – and all the luck – that got him here
He has to find an exit strategy for Iraq that does not somehow enhance the regional power status of Iran.
And of course the issue of Iranian nuclear ambition cannot be ignored either. How will President Obama react to pressure from Israel, or from his own military commanders, to bomb Iran’s reactor to prevent it from developing a bomb? We might know very soon.
In Afghanistan Mr Obama has talked of putting in more American troops and finishing the fight with al-Qaeda. That is easier said than done and if a beefed-up Afghan campaign goes badly, it will reflect on his judgment and damage his standing.
There remain the challenges of fighting effectively around the Pakistani border without alienating that turbulent ally. And that is before the problems of rebuilding – or rather building – Afghan civil society are contemplated.
Mr Obama has made history by winning power. As he attempts to make history in the way he exercises it, he will be weighed down by high expectations. He is going to need all the many gifts – and all the luck – that got him here.
President Obama and the world
By John Simpson
BBC World Affairs Editor
The United States has seen the biggest transformation in its standing in the world since the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in November 1960.
The world’s expectations of an Obama administration are high
This is a country which has habitually, sometimes irritatingly, regarded itself as young and vibrant, the envy of the world. Often this is merely hype. But there are times when it is entirely true.
With Barack Obama’s victory, one of these moments has arrived.
The US has never been so unpopular, so derided, and so dismissed by the outside world as it has in the latter stages of George W Bush’s presidency. The other day I asked Madeleine Albright, President Clinton’s formidable secretary of state, if she could remember a time when people hated America so much.
“Not in my lifetime,” she answered. “I feel very strongly about this country, and what an exceptional, amazing country it is. But I honestly think this is about as bad as I’ve seen it.”
Opinion polls around the world have confirmed America’s unpopularity. And the chance that a young, apparently pleasant and modest black man might become its president was greeted favourably everywhere.
Last summer a poll for the BBC World Service, conducted in 22 countries, indicated that people preferred Barack Obama to John McCain by four to one. Almost half said that if Senator Obama were elected, it would change their view of the United States completely.
America is no longer the power it was. It can still lead, but it is no longer in a position to dictate to the wider world
For eight years the word that people around the world have used again and again to describe the approach of George W Bush’s presidency is “arrogance”. The tone in Washington seemed to be one of superiority amounting almost to contempt.
Think of the speeches by men like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz or Paul Bremer. All were closely concerned with the occupation of Iraq, which was carried out in defiance of opinion in most of the rest of the world.
Why did the US invade Iraq? “Because we are America,” said another leading figure in the enterprise, famously. “We can.”
Outside this country, most people would probably agree with Madeleine Albright’s judgement when she spoke to me: “I think Iraq will go down in history as the greatest disaster of American foreign policy – worse than Vietnam.”
In the rush to war in 2003, when many American politicians were frightened to stand out against the crowd, Barack Obama condemned the invasion loudly and publicly.
The fact that he has been elected president is his reward for that. And everyone around the world who felt that the Iraq war was wrong will feel that America has now chosen a different path – a path that leads away from extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and all the rest of it.
America is no longer the power it was. Without meaning to, President Bush demonstrated that. It can still lead, but it is no longer in a position to dictate to the wider world.
A black family in the White House will change America’s image abroad
Barack Obama clearly understands this. As an African-American (literally, since his father was from Kenya) his background is not one of privilege and superiority. He will be open to the world in a way President Bush never was. And he will show once again the value of the American dream.
This is no guarantee that he will be a success as president. Jimmy Carter understood the US’s reduced position in the post-Vietnam world, and he refused to dictate to the world. Nowadays most Americans regard him as a failure.
But the outside world is set to be delighted by Barack Obama’s victory. And its view of America will change accordingly.
India has successfully launched its first mission to the Moon.
The unmanned Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft blasted off smoothly from a launch pad in southern Andhra Pradesh to embark on a two-year mission of exploration.
The robotic probe will orbit the Moon, compiling a 3-D atlas of the lunar surface and mapping the distribution of elements and minerals.
The launch is regarded as a major step for India as it seeks to keep pace with other space-faring nations in Asia.
Indian PM Manmohan Singh hailed the launch as the “first step” in a historic milestone in the country’s space programme.
People on the streets give their reaction to India’s moon mission.
“Our scientific community has once again done the country proud and the entire nation salutes them,” Mr Singh said in a message.
The launch was greeted with applause by scientists gathered at the site.
The chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Madhavan Nair, said it was a “historic moment” for the country.
“Today what we have charted is a remarkable journey for an Indian spacecraft to go to the moon and try to unravel the mysteries of the Earth’s closest celestial body and its only natural satellite,” Mr Nair said.
The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says there has been a lot of excitement about the event, which was broadcast live on national TV.
An Indian-built launcher carrying the one-and-a-half-tonne satellite blasted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh, at about 0620 local time (0050 GMT).
This is a commendable achievement that every Indian should be proud of
One key objective will be to search for surface or sub-surface water-ice on the Moon, especially at the poles.
Another will be to detect Helium 3, an isotope which is rare on Earth, but is sought to power nuclear fusion and could be a valuable source of energy in future.
Powered by a single solar panel generating about 700 Watts, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) probe carries five Indian-built instruments and six constructed in other countries, including the US, Britain and Germany.
The mission is expected to cost 3.8bn rupees (£45m; $78m), considerably less than Japanese and Chinese probes sent to the Moon last year.
The Indian experiments include a 30kg probe that will be released from the mothership to slam into the lunar surface. The Moon Impact Probe (MIP) will record video footage on the way down and measure the composition of the Moon’s tenuous atmosphere.
1 – Chandrayaan Energetic Neutral Analyzer (CENA)
2 – Moon Impact Probe (MIP)
3 – Radiation Dose Monitor (RADOM)
4 – Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC)
5 – Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3)
6 – Chandrayaan 1 X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS)
7 – Solar Panel
It will also drop the Indian flag on the surface of the Moon. The country’s tricolour is painted on the side of the probe and, if successful, India will become the fourth country after the US, Russia and Japan to place its national flag on the lunar surface.
Professor David Southwood, director of science and robotic exploration at the European Space Agency congratulated India’s space agency on the launch.
He added: “While the exploration of space calls for new challenges to be overcome, joining forces is becoming more and more a key to future successes.”
Barry Kellett, project scientist on the C1XS instrument, which was built at the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory in the UK, said: “Chandrayaan has a very competitive set of instruments… it will certainly do good science.”
C1XS will map the abundance of different elements in the lunar crust to help answer key questions about the origin and evolution of Earth’s only natural satellite.
Researchers say the relative abundances of magnesium and iron in lunar rocks could help confirm whether the Moon was covered by a molten, magma ocean early on in its history.
“The iron should have sunk [in the magma ocean], whereas the magnesium should have floated,” Mr Kellett told BBC News.
“The ratio of magnesium to iron for the whole Moon tells you to what extent the Moon melted and what it did after it formed.”
The instrument will look for more unusual elements on the Moon’s surface, such as titanium. This metallic element has been found in lunar meteorites, but scientists know little about its distribution in the lunar crust.
Chandrayaan (the Sanskrit word for “moon craft”) will also investigate the differences between the Moon’s near side and its far side. The far side is both more heavily cratered and different in composition to the one facing Earth.
The spacecraft will take about eight days the reach the Moon. During its lunar encounter, Chandrayaan fires its engine to slow its velocity – allowing it to be captured by the Moon’s gravity.
FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME
Chandrayaan will then slip into a near-circular orbit at an altitude of 1,000km. After a number of health checks, the probe will drop its altitude until it is orbiting just 100km above the lunar surface.
India, China, Japan and South Korea all have eyes on a share of the commercial satellite launch business and see their space programmes as an important symbol of international stature and economic development.
Last month, China became only the third country in the world to independently carry out a spacewalk.
But the Indian government’s space efforts have not been welcomed by all.
Some critics regard the space programme as a waste of resources in a country where millions still lack basic services.