India launches maiden unmanned moon mission

Posted on 2008-10-23
SRIHARIKOTA- Heralding a new era in its space programme, India on Wednesday launched its maiden unmanned mission to moon ‘Chandrayaan-I’ for a two-year exploration of the lunar surface and compilation of a three-dimensional atlas mapping the distribution of elements and minerals there.
“It is a historic moment as far as India is concerned. We have started our journey to the moon and the first leg of the journey has gone perfectly well,” an ecstatic ISRO Chairman Mr G Madhavan Nair said soon after the indigenously built rocket PSLV C-11 blasted off from the spaceport here in cloudy but rainless weather.
The 725-kg ‘Chandrayaan’, Sanskrit word for mooncraft, that will place the Indian tri-colour on the lunar surface, was put into orbit exactly 18.2 minutes after a textbook launch at 6.22 a.m. from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre in this island in the Bay of Bengal, about 100 km north of Chennai.
With the successful launch, India became the sixth country after the US, Russia, European Space Agency, China and Japan to launch a moon odyssey. Already US, Russia and Japan already have their flags on moon.
At Rs 386 crore, the Indian mission is considered to be the cheapest in the world which will help generate the first-ever comprehensive maps of the earth’s only natural satellite.
The mapper will help provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution, revealing the minerals of which the moon is made.
Of the total eleven instruments that the maiden Indian spacecraft is carrying three are from the United States, two from the ESA and one from Bulgaria.
One of the important objectives of the robotic probe will be to look for surface or sub-surface water-ice on the moon. It will help prepare detailed maps of the moon, its topography, mineral contents and look for water in the polar regions.
Leading space agencies of the world have congratulated Indian Space Research Organisation for its effort.
“We congratulate ISRO on this successful launch and welcome this new mission to the moon. India is one of the few countries that have accomplished significant achievements in space activities,” a spokesperson of European Space Agency’s) director general said in an e-mail to PTI.
The 44.4 metre tall four-stage PSLV rocket injected the spacecraft in the earth orbit from where it would be guided about 3,87,000 km away from the earth to the circular lunar orbit, 100 km from the moon’s surface, by November 8.
The President, Ms Pratibha Patil, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mr L K Advani congratulated the space scientists on the successful launch.
The focus now shifts to ISRO’s telemetry, tracking and command network at Peenya in Bangalore, which will be the country’s nerve centre for tracking and controlling Chandrayaan-1 over the next two years of its lifespan
After circling the earth in its highly elliptical transfer orbit for a while, Chandrayaan-1 would be taken into more elliptical orbits by repeated firing of the spacecraft’s liquid apogee motor at opportune moments.
Subsequently, the LAM would be again fired to take the spacecraft to the vicinity of the moon by following a lunar transfer trajectory path, whose apogee lies at 3,87,000 km.
Later, when Chandrayaan-1 reaches the vicinity of the moon, its LAM would be fired again to slow down the spacecraft sufficiently to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit.
After some more procedures, Chandrayaan-1’s orbit would be finally lowered to its intended 100 km height from the lunar surface, which was expected to take place around November 8.
The moon impact probe, carrying the Indian tricolour, would then be ejected from the spacecraft following which the cameras and other payloads would be turned on and thoroughly tested, marking the operational phase of the mission. PTI