Friday, October 3, 2008

India to Reach for the Moon this Month

If everything goes as planned, any of the days starting October 19th to 28th would be remembered as a red-letter day for us Indians.It was after five years the Indian government cleared the project. It will make an entry into the lunar atmosphere for a two-year mission. Our very first, homespun lunar probe, Chandrayaan is all set to make its first voyage to our nearest celestial body -- the Moon on these tentative dates -- depending on the weather conditions then. If the weather plays spoil sport, the mission will need to be postponed to December. In any case, a successful mission will no doubt put India in the elite club of counties who have been able to send missions to moon.

Chandrayaan will carry as many as 11 payloads -- five from India, three from the European Space Agency (ESA), one from the Bulgarian Space Agency (BSA) and two from NASA, making it a truly global initiative. The two-year mission will be invaluable as the Chandrayaan is programmed to orbit the Lunar surface and digitally map it. It will also send information on the traces of the composition of the lunar surface apart from looking for atomic minerals such as thorium and uranium. The probe is also equipped with high-resolution cameras which could help shed some light on the existence of water on the moon.

A modified (rather upgraded) PSLV launch vehicle will be used to transport the probe to the lunar orbit. Due to the modifications, the PSLV C-11 will have a lift-off weight of 316 tonnes, which is much higher than the "standard" 294-ton version. Additionally, the payload capacity too has been increased from 1600 kg to 1800 kg. The PSLV has been the most successful launch vehicle for ISRO till date. It also holds the record for sending as many as 10 satellites simultaneously during its last mission. This time round, it is all set to break its own record by carrying 11 different payload

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