By our special correspondent
India – “We have started our journey to moon. This is a historic moment and the beginning of a remarkable journey for India,” proclaimed a jubilant Madhavan Nair, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). An ecstatic Nair and his team of scientists at ISRO celebrated the successful launch of India’s ace moon mission Chandrayaan-1 aboard its most successful workhorse launch vehicle PSLV in its 14th flight.
With this, India joins the bandwagon of nations like US, Russia, Europe, China and Japan in exploring the outer space.
Though inclement weather and heavy rains cast doubts over the launch till late yesterday night, a gritty ISRO team went ahead with the much awaited launch, working against all odds. After a 52-hour count down, PSLV-C11 finally lifted off from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota (SHAR) at 6.22 am IST. Perfect performances of all the sub-systems and parameters of the launch vehicle have finally put the 1380 Kg Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft into an elliptical transfer orbit at an altitude of 255 Km with an apogee of 22,860 Km.
Touted to be the most complex spacecraft ever built in the world, Chandrayaan-1 is India’s first spacecraft mission beyond earth’s orbit. It aims to further expand India’s knowledge about earth’s only natural satellite – the moon. With 11 scientific instruments and very-well defined objectives, Chandrayaan-1 mission intends to put an unmanned spacecraft into an orbit around the moon for a period of two years, at the end of the entire surface of the moon is expected to be mapped. This objective will be achieved by remote sensing the moon in visible, near infrared, microwave and X-ray regions of the EM spectrum.
The ultimate target is to come up with a 3D atlas of the lunar surface and chemical and mineralogical map of the entire lunar surface.
Though a critical part of the mission is accomplished with the successful launch, the glorious mission is full of challenges ahead. After circling the earth in the transfer orbit it is put in now, Chandrayaan-1 will be taken into more elliptical extended transfer orbits by repeatedly firing its liquid apogee motor (LAM) in a pre-determined sequence. When it reaches the vicinity of the moon LAM is fired again so that the spacecraft slows down sufficiently to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit. Later, the height of the spacecraft’s orbit around the moon is reduced in steps. After a series of steps, Chandrayaan-1 will finally settle down into a 100-km orbit. This completes the launch mission and this is expected to be done by 8th November. The spacecraft will then be put into operational phase and the movements will be tracked by the newly built tracking centre at Byalalu near Bangalore.
Among the total 11 payloads (both national and international), one payload of interest is the moon impact probe (MIP) which piggybacks the main orbiter. The probe will impact on the surface of the moon. This is required to demonstrate the technologies required for landing a probe at the desired location on the moon. Through this probe, it is also intended to qualify some of the technologies related to future soft landing missions. This apart, scientific exploration of the moon at close distance is also intended using MIP.
ISRO, the only organisation in the world to use hi-tech space technology for improving the quality of human life, paving way for the development of the country with its communications and earth observation satellites, has for the first time diverted its attention to scientific missions. Apart from its above specified objectives, Chandrayaan-1 will also explore the so far un-explored polar regions of the moon. It will try for traces of water and explore for potential energy sources like Helium3.
After about 1000 engineers working 24X7 for the past few months on the Chandrayaan-1, making its launch successful, ISRO now envisages a soft unmanned landing with its next mission to moon and eventually plans a manned mission before 2015. After conquering the Moon, Nair said, “Mars will be the next natural destination for ISRO.”
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