October 25, 2008

Chandrayaan-1: India's First Moon Mission

Chandrayaan-1 launches atop a PSLV-C11. Image: ISRO

On Wednesday, October 22, 2008, the launch of Chandrayaan-1 from Sriharikota in India took place. It started its 8 day journey towards the Moon, and is packed with tools and instruments to help it study our satellite. However the biggest and perhaps the most important news about this spacecraft is that it is India's first Moon Mission, and if the impact probe onboard is successful, India will become the fourth nation to place its flag on the Moon.

The Mission

The Chandrayaan-1 (meaning "Moon Craft" in Sanskrit) mission is developed by India's national space agency, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) . Even though it may seem as if humans already understand Earth's closes neighbor well enough, it still holds many secrets. The Moon was a target for exploration in the sixties and seventies, but our interest in it slowly faded away. Now, after more research and a deeper understanding of its past, the Moon has become a destination once again. Plus, it is increasingly becoming a viable stepping stone for exploration of areas deeper in space, such as Mars. India is joining other nations to further explore the Moon.

Chandrayaan-1's mission goals are to learn more about the lunar surface and what lies beneath. Through a period of two years, Chandrayaan-1 is supposed to survey the surface and topography and learn about the composition of some areas of the Moon, especially ice in the polar regions, while orbiting the Moon.


There are numerous payloads onboard Chandrayaan-1. The spacecraft basically consists of an orbiter and an impactor, but there are a total of eleven instruments, five Indian and six foreign. Powering all these instruments is a single solar panel.

One of the most interesting of these instruments is the Moon Impact Probe, which itself contains numerous tools to study the surface of the Moon. The impactor also carries with itself a picture of the Indian flag, and if successful, India will become the fourth country to place its flag on the Moon, after the Soviet Union, the United States, and Japan.

Alongside the Indian instruments are the foreign ones, coming from countries such as the United States, Britain, and Germany.


As the Chandrayaan-1 mission is on its way, ISRO is also planning a second Moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, consisting of a lunar orbiter, a lunar lander, and even a rover. This mission is being developed with the help of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos. The launch for Chandrayaan-2 is currently scheduled for 2012.

The Future

Humans are reaching for the Moon again, and India has joined in with its first Moon mission. India's first mission is just a prelude to what it is planning to bring in the future, with a rover under design and maybe even a manned landing. The new Space Race is well underway, and it seems that it is definitely bigger and more international than the last one.

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