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Moon mission launched
October 23, 2008, 7:07 am
Filed under: satellite | Tags: ,

Sriharikota, Oct. 22 Chandrayaan-1, the Indian satellite that would take a peek at the moon from close quarters, was carried into space this morning by the PSLV-C11 rocket, amid threats to the launch from a particularly bad weather.

Low, dark clouds capable of striking down the rocket with thunderbolts, loomed menacingly in the morning sky at the Sriharikota range, but a Providential let-up in the inclement conditions made way for the historic launch.

Usually, the rockets form a beautiful spectacle in the sky with their long plume of fire, but today the PSLV-C11 could be seen barely for a couple of seconds before it disappeared into the clouds. The signature growl that rent the air was the only evidence of its brief presence before it bade farewell to the earth.

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“We have opened a new chapter in the history of Indian space programme,” Mr G Madhavan Nair, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation, said at a press conference after the launch.

This mission has two key distinctions. First, this is the first time an Indian satellite is going out of earth’s active gravitational field – into an area where its trajectory would be influenced by the pull of the moon, sun and other celestial bodies. While the earth’s gravity would continue to act upon the satellite, it would also be subject to various other pulls. It is a ‘first’ for Indian scientists, one that will reward them richly with learnings for handling objects in deep space.

Second, the satellite is the most complex one ever built (anywhere in the world, says Mr Nair), with 11 instruments for c

arrying out scientific experiments. One of them, bearing the Indian tricolour motif, will crash-land on the moon next month, but not before sending some pictures from near.

Right now the satellite is circling the earth, but over the next two weeks, scientists will keep nudging it into larger orbits until it reaches the moon. Its designated position is a polar orbit around the moon, some 100 km from the lunar surface, where it will remain in service for two years.

The Rs 386-crore project will help Indian scientists study the moon for the mineral composition and any presence of water. Since the Chandrayaan will move up and down the moon as the moon itself rotates sideways, the satellite will have a ringside view of the entire lunar surface, over time. “In two years, we will have the entire map of the moon,” Mr Nair said.

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