Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chandrayaan Lifts Off

It was truly a historic moment for the entire country. The PSLV-C11, which carries India's first unmanned moon spacecraft Chandrayaan-1, was successfully put into initial orbit from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday morning at around 6.40 am.

At the end of the 49-hour countdown, the 44.4 meter tall four-stage PSLV-C11 blasted off from the second launch pad with the ignition of the core first stage at 6.22 am.

Large crowds had gathered at Sriharikota since early Wednesday morning to witness this historic event. The crowds cheered at the PSLV, which weighs 316 tonnes soared majestically into the skies. However, the thick black clouds played spoil sport for those waiting to watch the PSLV launch into the skies.

People who stood on the terrace of the Brahm Prakash auditorium to witness the launch managed to catch a glimpse of the vehicle only for a brief moment before it disappeared into the clouds.

However, the mood in the Satish Dhawan Space Centre where the entire Indian Space Research Organization team behind the mission was seated was upbeat. They were emotional on seeing that the launch was a success.

ISRO Chairman Madhavan Nair got up from his chair, clapping his hands, and congratulated other scientists who had ensured that the mission's success. This is the 14th flight of ISRO's workhorse PSLV, which has launched 29 satellites into a variety of orbits since 1993.

The launch vehicle uses larger strap-on motors to achieve higher payload capability.

The Chandrayaan-1 is carrying 11 payloads, five entirely designed and developed in India, three from European Space Agency, one from Bulgaria and two from US, which would explore the moon.

In his message soon after the launch, Madhavan Nair said this was a historic moment for India.

"The first leg has gone perfectly and today we have started a remarkable journey to the moon. We have fought all odds which include heavy rains and thunderstorms since the past four days to ensure that this mission is a success. We will complete the journey in the next 15 days."

The other men behind the mission, who were obviously elated by the success of the launch, too spoke after the successful launch. They said phase-1 had been completed successfully and for phase-2, the next team would take over.

"We have spent sleepless nights and today our baby is on the way to the moon. Fifteen days from now, we will reach our destination and for the next two years the Chandrayaan will do its job in exploring the mysteries of the moon. We are ready for many more challenges and we must say that this has been a thrilling experience," he said.

The 1380-kg Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft will first reach a highly elliptical Initial orbit and thereafter the satellite's Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) will be fired at appropriate moments that will finally take it to an orbit at a height of 100 km around the moon around November eight.

Chandrayaan-1 carries 11 payloads (scientific instruments) -- five from India, three from ESA, two from the US and one from Bulgaria. It aims to undertake remote-sensing of the moon in the visible, near infrared, microwave and X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. With this, preparation of a three-dimensional atlas of the lunar surface is envisaged.

"The mission will lead to detailed understanding of the mineralogy of the moon, and (possibility of) abundance of Helium-3 said to be a relatively clean fuel for future nuclear fusion reactors," an ISRO official said.

"It will also throw more light on what appears to be the presence of water ice in the permanently shadowed regions of the moon's polar areas".

Sources: &

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