In three years when India sends the Chandryaan-1 to the moon, the country will join the elite lunar club. ISRO has already made it clear that the Indian lunar mission will not be an exercise in reinventing the wheel. Chandrayaan-1 will strive to unravel the hitherto unknown features of the moon for the first time. Moreover, Dr. Nair points out that a lunar mission can provide impetus to science in India, a challenge to technology and possibly a new dimension to international cooperation. Also on the agenda are the preparation of the three dimensional atlas of the regions on the moon and the chemical mapping of the entire lunar surface.
Sometime in 2007, when the first Indian scientific mission to the moon Chandrayaan-1 zooms into space at the head of the four-stage Indian built space vehicle—the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), India will join the elite club of space faring nations that have the wherewithal to undertake such complex and challenging space missions.
The Chandrayaan-1 mission that involves placing of a 525-kg.spacecraft around the lunar orbit, will help expand the scientific knowledge about the moon besides upgrading India’s technological competence and providing challenging opportunities for planetary research to the younger generation.
For India, which began its space journey in a modest way in 1963 with the launch of a 9-kilo rocket from a research facility at the fishing hamlet of Thumba in Kerala, the Chandrayaan-1 marks a quantum leap. Indeed, India’s unmanned scientific mission to moon, which was approved last year, has moved further up India’s priority list in the wake of China’s successful manned mission of October 2003.
G.Madhavan Nair, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) says that the 294-tonne PSLV will launch Chandrayaan-1 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
The PSLV, originally developed with a view to serve as a workhorse for launching the Indian made IRS series of earth observation spacecraft, was subsequently promoted as a cost effective booster for launching light-weight piggyback payloads on a commercial basis. It has already accomplished two successful missions.
During its May 1999 flight, PSLV launched India’s 1050-kg.IRS-P4 earth to ocean watch satellite along with the South Korean 107-kg.Kitsat probe and Germany’s 45 kg
Tubsat capsule. This was the first time that an Indian space vehicle launched three satellite payloads in orbit.
During its second commercial mission in October 2001, PSLV placed three satellites in their specified orbits–India’s Technology Experiment Satellite (TES), Germany’s Bird and Belgium’s Proba. Now PSLV is slated to launch an Italian built satellite and a micro satellite payload of the Singapore based Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
A Deep Space Network will be set up at Bangalore to support the Chandrayaan-1 mission and also to receive data collected by its onboard scientific instruments. A National Science Data Centre to process raw data into user-friendly format will also be located at a suitable place.
The Rs.3800-million Chandrayaan-1 mission is being viewed by ISRO as a stepping stone to far more ambitious space projects in the years to come including landing a robot on the lunar surface and visits by the Indian spacecraft to other planets of the solar system.
According to Dr. K.Kasturirangan, former chairman of ISRO and currently a Member of Parliament, who had played a key role in giving a concrete shape to the Chandrayaan-1 project, India should play a pre-eminent role in the international efforts to push back the boundaries of the ‘final frontiers.’
PSLV-C5 in its final stage of production for launch from Sriharikota
ISRO has already made it clear that the Indian lunar mission will not be an exercise in reinventing the wheel. Chandrayaan-1 will strive to unravel the hitherto unknown features of the moon for the first time. Moreover, Dr. Nair points out that a lunar mission can provide impetus to science in India, a challenge to technology and possibly a new dimension to international cooperation.
The scientific objectives of Chandrayaan-1 include preparation of the three dimensional atlas of the regions on the moon and the chemical mapping of the entire lunar surface.
ISRO is serious about the potential availability of water on the moon. The
Indian scientific community is of view that the availability of water—essential to sustain life—could fuel an international race to reinvestigate the moon from fresh perspective.
Similarly, the abundant availability of helium, a clean source of energy, is yet another attraction to probe the moon. Scientific community in India is clear that an area that needs to be pursued seriously is the mining of helium and bringing it back to the earth for power generation.
More than three decades ago, Dr.Vikram Sarabhai, the architect of the Indian space programme outlined what he considered should be India’s objectives in space. “We don’t have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or manned flights. But we are convinced that to play a meaningful role nationally and in the community of the nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problem of man and society which we find in our country.”
But then, in the context of the rapid strides made by India in computer programming, nuclear energy and stem cell research, the lunar probe is but a reflection of the nation’s will.