Sunday, November 9, 2008

India’s first lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 (meaning ‘moon craft’ in Sanskrit) has completed the tricky manoeuvre of entering the lunar orbit at 5:15 PM Indian standard time. This was an important milestone for the Indian mission to the Moon, which was launched on October 22 from Indian spaceport Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota. ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair said everything onboard Chandrayaan-1 is working fine.

The lunar orbit insertion (LOI) began at 4:50 P.M and lasted for 817 seconds (14 minutes). The ground control station at Peenya in Bangalore remotely fired the satellite’s rockets to move it into its new trajectory. This was considered to be a most critical moment of the entire mission. The satellite has now been placed in a 7,502 km X 504 km elliptical orbit around the Moon. Chandrayaan will be gradually lowered to a circular orbit at a distance of 100 km from the lunar surface. Once the circular orbit is achieved, Chandrayaan will eject the Moon Impact Probe, a lunar probe, to impact on the moon’s surface. Besides carrying three important scientific instruments, the lunar probe will also carry a picture of the Indian national flag.

With this, India will become both the fourth country to place a flag on the moon and the fifth country to send a spacecraft to the moon. The other countries which have sent spacecraft to the Moon are the United States, the former Soviet Union, Japan, and China, along with the European Space Agency (ESA), a consortium of 17 countries.