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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

India Catapults to the Moon with the Successful launch of the Moon Mission

With text book precision, India's first lunar spacecraft(Chandrayaan) was launched from the India's Satish Dhawan Space Centre (spaceport) early Wednesday, catapulting India into the select club that have sent missions to the moon, after the US, former Soviet Union, European Space Agency, China and Japan.

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Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV C11) carrying Chandrayaan, lifted off from the second launchpad with the legendary orange plume breaking through the scudding cloud cover at 6:22 hrs today - exactly on schedule. The PSLV C11 which stood at 44-metre-tall and weighing over 316-tonnes moved into its designated orbit within minutes of launch and also sling Chandrayaan into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

Most likely on 8th November, Chandrayaan will fire the satellite's onboard liquid apogee motor (LAM) to take it from the GTO to the lunar orbit - which is roughly 387,000 kms away from earth. Once the 1,380 kg Chandrayaan enters closer to the moon its speed will be drastically reduced to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit around the moon.

Once in moon's orbit, Chandrayaan will drop off its much anticipated Moon Impact Probe (MIP) which carries an Indian flag, among many other scientific instruments. The spacecraft will simultaneously activate its on-board cameras and other experimental instruments.

Chandrayaan is slated to orbit the moon for two years. It also carries 11 experimental payloads, 5 Indian, 3 from the European Space Agency , 2 from the US and 1 from Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

The Indian payload has a special terrain mapping camera (TMC). It will mainly be used to map the lunar topography, capturing black and white 3-D images. The camera has the capability to image a 20 km-wide strip of lunar surface from as close as five metres. It will also use a high resolution remote sensing camera in the visible, near infrared, microwave and X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum to map the moon. This will greatly enable the Indian scientists to prepare a 3-D atlas of lunar surface and help map it chemically.

It also caries another fantastic piece of Indian payload called the Hyperspectral Imager (HySI). This is yet another camera which is designed to obtain data for mapping minerals on the lunar surface as well as for understanding the mineralogical composition its interior.

Chandrayaan also has an onboard lunar laser ranging instrument(LRRI) which will provide data for determining the accurate altitude of Chandrayaan-1 above the lunar surface. Data from LLRI will also enable the scientists to understand the internal structure of the moon and the way large surface features of the moon have changed with time.

Chandrayaan-1 will also use a High Energy X-ray Spectrometer (HEX) to carry out the first spectral studies of 'hard' X-ray energies using good energy resolution detectors. HEX is designed to help explore the possibility of identifying polar regions covered by thick water-ice deposits as well as in identifying regions of high uranium and thorium concentrations.

Let's wish the scientists all the very best for the entire mission at hand!! , truly indeed a small step for man but a gaint leap for mankind!

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