Saturday, 15 November 2008
Chandrayaan-1: India's Moon Mission Puts Tricolour On The Lunar Terrain
November 15, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 14: India on Friday night literally hit the Moon when the TV-box sized Moon Impact Probe painted in Indian tri-colour landed on the lunar surface.
The formal landing of MIP at 8.31 pm, ejected from India's first-ever lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft now circling 100 km away from the Moon, marks India's legal presence on the Earth's only natural satellite.
Only the USA, former USSR and 17-nation European Space Agency have literally landed on the lunar terrain with their unmanned probes. India's MIP feat comes nearly 50 years after former USSR sent its probe to the Moon.
India, thus became the fourth nation in the world to land probes on the Moon. Though Asian giants China and Japan too had sent their Moon missions, they did not land probes or rovers onto the lunar soil. The MIP, painted in the Indian national flag, took about 25 minutes to descend 100 km from Chandrayaan-1 to hit the Moon surface.
The data gathered from the impact will enable the Indian Space Research Organisation to identify which are the "safe" spots on the Moon to land its next Moon Mission, Chandrayaan-2, scheduled for 2011.
ISRO spokesperson S Satish described the operation as "perfect". Earlier, ISRO scientists began the countdown to hurl the 34 kg probe from the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. The remote operation was carried out from the ISRO's deep space network at Byalalu near Bengaluru, with the ground support from ISRO’s telemetry, tracking and command network.
"The landing of the impact probe has an emotional significance for all Indians. The touching of the tricolour on the lunar surface signifies India’s presence on the moon," ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said.
Earlier, the ISRO ground team activated a small thruster to eject the probe as the Chandrayaan-1 traversed from north to south in the polar orbit, crossing the lunar equator. The probe plunged at a speed of about five km per minute and hit the Moon surface at Shackleton crater near the lunar south pole at 88.9 degrees latitude and 0 degree longitude.
As the MIP started descending onto the Moon from Chandrayaan-1, the special equipment on it took video images of the lunar surface and transmitted data to the ISRO's centres.
"During the descent phase, it was spin-stabilised. The primary objective is to demonstrate the technologies required for landing the probe at a desired location on the Moon and to qualify some of the technologies related to future soft landing missions," Satish said.
The Moon Impact Probe essentially consists of honeycomb structure, which houses all the subsystems and instruments. It comprises the avionics and thermal control systems. The avionics system supports the payloads and provides communication link between MIP and the main orbiter, from separation to impact.
The mission envisages collecting all the instrument data during descent and ransmits to main orbiter, which in turn will transmit them to the ground station during visible phases. The mass spectrometer attached to the probe measured the constituents of lunar atmosphere during the descent.
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