India on the moon, Chandrayaan MIP lands
Bangalore, Nov 15 (IANS): India Friday became the fourth country in the world to land a man-made object on the lunar surface when its moon impact probe (MIP), with the tricolour painted on it, landed on the earth’s only natural satellite at 8.31 p.m. after ejecting from the Chandrayaan-I spacecraft.
The MIP impacted on the moon’s surface 25 minutes after it was separated from Chandrayaan at 8.06 p.m., orbiting at 100 km above.
"We have given the moon to India. We have successfully placed our national flag on the lunar surface. In this auspicious month of Karthika, the moon has been very favourable to us," a beaming G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), announced amidst thunderous applause by space scientists and officials.
To savour the historic event, former president and rocket scientist A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and former ISRO chairman U.R. Rao were present at the space agency’s telemetry, tracking and command network (Istrac) on the outskirts of Bangalore.
"On Jawaharlal Nehru’s 119 birthday, the space scientists have gifted the moon to millions of Indian children. I am proud of ISRO. The success of Chandrayaan mission demonstrates the creative leadership of Nair and the technological excellence of our scientists," Kalam told reporters after witnessing the complex manouvres from the spacecraft control centre at Istrac.
It may be recalled that the modern Indian space programme was initiated in 1962 when Nehru was the prime minister.
The 34 kg boxed shaped probe, with the saffron, white and green colours of the Indian flag painted on all its four sides, hit the lunar surface in the designated area of Shackleton crater, near the South Polar region.
"A series of automatic operations were carried out by firing the spin up rockets after achieving a safe distance of separation from Chandrayaan. With the firing of its retro rocket, the probe slowed down and started its rapid descent towards the lunar surface," Nair pointed out.
Soon after the probe mission was accomplished, Chandrayaan disappeared behind the moon in its two-hourly orbit. Before going out of sight, the payloads in the 519 kg spacecraft captured all the pictures taken by the video imaging system of the MIP and recorded the data relayed by the radar altimeter and the mass spectrometer of the probe.
ISRO plans to use the data for its future lunar soft landing missions. Information from the instruments was radioed to Chandrayaan-1 by the descending probe. The spacecraft recorded the data in its onboard memory for later readout.
The crash landing of the 375 mm x 375 mm x 470 mm MIP, a honeycomb structure carrying a radar altimeter, a video imaging system and a mass spectrometer, raised a cloud of dust that will be analysed by the scientists, yielding a host of data about the composition of the moon. But well before that, the video imaging system and the mass spectrometer had obtained data that will enable the scientists to analyse if the moon has water, if it has anything that can be used as fuel for nuclear fusion, hopefully even the age of the moon. The landing of the MIP comes 50 years after the first man-made object landed on the lunar surface. The other countries that landed probes on the moon are the former USSR, the US and China.