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Countdown begins for Chandrayaan moon mission

CNN-IBN
Oct 21, 2008 at 11:20am IST

New Delhi: After nine years of hard work, the countdown for Chandrayaan-1 – India's first unmanned moon mission – has begun at the Sriharikota space station. The launch is scheduled for early Wednesday morning.

Chandrayaan-1 will orbit the moon for about two years, mapping the topography and mineral content of the lunar soil. It will take off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 80 km from Chennai, and off the Bay of Bengal.

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The Chandrayaan-1 launch would be around 0620 hrs IST on October 22, weather conditions permitting.

Ninety-nine per cent of the integration and testing is complete and the countdown has begun for India's historic tryst with the moon.

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The success of Chandrayaan-1 will catapult India among the top five space exploring countries of the world.

Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Dr G Madhavan Nair said, “It has been a dream of Indian scientists to send satellites around the moon and collect data about its surface features, minerals and so on.”

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Experts said that just getting the satellite right isn't enough. A huge ground network is needed to monitor and control it. So 30 kilometres outside Bangalore, ISRO built this tracking station.

Director of ISRO Satellite Centre, TK Alex said, “We have to make sure that the trajectory is correct. Moon must be exactly where we decided it should be when we designed the satellite.”

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While Indians designed and built everything on this mission – they weren't averse to letting others hitch a ride. There are 11 different machines on board this mission – five from India, four from Europe and two from NASA.

On Wednesday morning, nine years of hard work will be put to the test. If successful, the Chandrayaan-1 mission will be a clear statement that sky is not the limit for India anymore.

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The five Indian payloads are:

  • The seven-kg terrain mapping camera (TMC) will map moon's topography and prepare the three-dimensional atlas.
  • The four-kg hyper spectral imager (HySI) will gather spectroscopic data for mapping minerals.
  • The 10-kg lunar laser ranging instrument (LLRI) will provide data for determining the height of lunar surface features and moon's gravity field.
  • The 16-kg high energy x-ray spectrometer (HEX) will explore the moon's polar regions (north-south) that may be covered by thick water-ice deposits.
  • The 29-kg moon impact probe (MIP) that will descend on to the lunar surface in about 20 minutes from an altitude of 100 km on a specific location at a pre-determined time to explore the moon from a close range.

The European Space Agency devices or payloads that will fly on the Chandrayaan-1:

  • Imaging x-ray spectrometer (C1XS), developed by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Britain with the ISRO satellite centre, will map the lunar surface, using x-ray fluorescence technique for measuring the elements. It will also observe the moon during the rising phase of the solar cycle when x-ray signals are expected to be enhanced.
  • Sub-kiloelectronvolt (keV) atom reflecting analyser (SARA), built jointly by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and the Space Physics Laboratory of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VKSC) at Thiruvananthapuram, will study the composition of the moon, the way its surface reacts to solar wind, how its materials change and the magnetic anomalies.

The following are the two US instruments packages:

  • The 6.5-kg mini synthetic aperture radar (MiniSAR), developed by the Johns Hopkins University applied physics laboratory and the naval air warfare centre, will detect water-ice in the permanently shadowed regions of the lunar poles by digging a few metres into the surface.
  • Moon mineralogy mapper (M3), an imaging spectrometer built by Brown University and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA, will assess and map lunar mineral resources at high spatial and spectral resolution for future targeted missions.

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