Monday, September 28, 2009

CHANDRAYAAN-1: India's first mission to Moon

"THE MOON"with the history of the early solar system etched on it beckons mankind from time immemorial to admire its marvels and discover its secrets. Understanding the moon provides a pathway to unravel the early evolution of the solar system and that of the planet earth.

Through the ages, the Moon, our closest celestial body has aroused curiosity in our mind much more than any other objects in the sky. This led to scientific study of the Moon, driven by human desire and quest for knowledge. This is also reflected in the ancient verse.
Exploration of the moon got a boost with the advent of the space age and the decades of sixties and seventies saw a myriad of successful unmanned and manned missions to moon. This was followed by a hiatus of about one and a half-decade. During this period we refined our knowledge about the origin and evolution of the moon and its place as a link to understand the early history of the Solar System and of the earth.
However, new questions about lunar evolution also emerged and new possibilities of using the moon as a platform for further exploration of the solar system and beyond were formulated. Moon again became the prime target for exploration and a new renaissance of rejuvenated interest dawned. All the major space faring nations of the world started planning missions to explore the moon and also to utilize moon as a potential base for space exploration.
The idea of undertaking an Indian scientific mission to Moon was initially mooted in a meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1999 that was followed up by discussions in the Astronautical Society of India in 2000. Based on the recommendations made by the learned members of these forums, a National Lunar Mission Task Force was constituted by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Leading Indian scientists and technologists participated in the deliberations of the Task Force that provided an assessment on the feasibility of an Indian Mission to the Moon as well as dwelt on the focus of such a mission and its possible configuration.
The task force recommended that given the technical expertise of ISRO it will be extreme worthwhile to plan an Indian Mission to the Moon. It also provided specific inputs such as the primary scientific objectives of such a mission, plausible instruments to meet these objectives, launch and spacecraft technologies that need to be developed and suggested the need for setting up of a Deep Space Network (DSN) station in India for communication with the lunar orbiting spacecraft. The team also provided a provisional budgetary estimate.
The Study Report of the Task Team was discussed in April 2003 by a peer group of about 100 eminent Indian scientists representing various fields of planetary & space sciences, earth sciences, physics, chemistry, astronomy, astrophysics and engineering and communication sciences. After detailed discussions, it was unanimously recommended that India should undertake the Mission to Moon, particularly in view of the renowned international interest on moon with several exciting missions planned for the new millennium. In addition, such a mission will provide the needed thrust to basic science and engineering research in the country including new challenges to ISRO to go beyond the Geostationary orbit. Further, such a project will also help bringing in young talents to the arena of fundamental research. The Academia, in particular, the university scientists would also find participation in such a project intellectually rewarding.
Subsequently, Government of India approved ISRO's proposal for the first Indian Moon Mission, called Chandrayaan-1 in November 2003.

ISRO found water on moon 10 months ago

BANGALORE: Indian Space Research Organisation may have stolen the thunder of discovering water on the
Moon.

The Moon Impact Probe on Chandrayaan-I appears to have sensed water earlier than Nasa's Moon Minerolgy Mapper (M3) but protocol did not allow ISRO to declare the discovery. While MIP detected water molecules on November 14, 2008, just 22 days after Chandrayaan-1's launch, M3 did so in March 2009.

J S Goswami, principal investigator for Chandrayaan-1, told TOI: ``We had indications of water on November 14, the day MIP crash-landed on the Moon. It sensed some sort of water molecules. We were absolutely delighted but it had to be corroborated. Without international examination and cross-examination and confirmation of the evidence, it would not have been right on our part to go public about it.''

Mylswami Annadurai, project director, Chandrayaan-1 and 2, explained why India did not go public with the discovery. ``International protocol requires us to discuss the evidence, cross-calibrate it with experts and it goes through a peer review and gets their approval. After all this, if it's a credible finding comes the go-ahead for its publication. This process can take three to four months, sometimes even seven. Only after publication can we speak about the evidence.''

ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said the MIP showed indications as it was crash-landing - it caught signatures of water. ``As the MIP was landing, it took some pictures that indicated the water molecules eventually found by M3.''

The MIP had picked up strong signals of water particles towards the polar region from 70 degree latitude to 80 degree latitude, according to Goswami. While this was known in November 2008, the M3 discovery of water in March 2009 was confirmed only three months later ^ in June. That's because US scientists wanted to be sure they had indeed found water and it took three months of rigorous cross-examination to confirm it. Publication after the confirmation also took time.

Officials said India scientists waited all this while to make the discovery public as they wanted the findings of such global significance to be first published in a scientific journal.

Kalam advises ISRO, NASA on Chandrayaan-II

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and US space agency NASA should deploy surface robotic penetrator in 'Chandrayaan-II' mission to study more about the presence of water molecules on moon, former President APJ Abdul Kalam has suggested.

"I suggested to both ISRO and NASA to work on future mission of Chandrayaan-II using moon surface robotic penetrator during my recent visit to California Institute of Technology in US, where NASA scientists presented the findings of Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) to Indian scientists," Kalam told students during an interaction on Saturday.

The missile man was in Mumbai to inaugurate the national science seminar on 'Chandrayaan: Promises and Concerns' for school students, organised by the National Council of Science Museum.

He said more validations are being carried out by the scientists on India's Moon Impact Probe (MIP) about the presence of water on lunar surface.