This Day in History (22-Oct-2008) – India’s first unmanned lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, was launched

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). Subsequently, Government of India approved ISRO’s proposal for the first Indian Moon Mission, called Chandrayaan-1 in 2003.

On 22nd October 2008, At 6:22 a.m., the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)-XL rocket shot into a dark sky; the four stages ignited and fell away on time. About 18 minutes and 20 seconds after take-off, the rocket’s fourth stage injected Chandrayaan-1 into its initial orbit at a velocity of 9.25 km a second. The Rs. 400 crore mission, a significant milestone in India’s space programme, included a lunar orbiter and an impactor. The remote sensing lunar satellite, with a mass of 1,380 kg at launch and 675 kg in lunar orbit, carried high-resolution equipment.

Seventeen days after the launch, the vehicle was successfully inserted into the lunar orbit. The Moon Impact Probe separated from the Chandrayaan orbiter on November 14, 2008 and struck the south pole, making India join a very select group of nations that have their flags on the Moon. After hitting the surface near a crater, it ejected underground soil, which was then tested for the presence of lunar water ice.

Around nine months after the Chandrayaan launch, there was a glitch in the satellite’s ‘star sensors’. Eventually, the mission was declared over on 29 August after Chandrayaan stopped sending radio signals. Though it operated for 312 days instead of the planned two years, the mission achieved 95 percent of its planned objectives, ISRO said. Among other achievements, the mineral content on the lunar surface was mapped with the Moon Mineralogy Mapper; the changes in rock and mineral composition were identified; the Oriental Basin region of the Moon was mapped; and mapping of the Moon missions landing sites was carried out.



This Day in History (19-Apr-1975) – India’s first satellite successfully launched into a near earth orbit

The Indian space Programme began in 1962. In 1969 the Indian space Research Organizatiion (ISRO) was set up with headquarters in Banglore for the purpose of rapid development in space technology and its application. In 1972, space commission was established.  Aryabhata, India’s first satellite, named after a ancient Indian mathematician (5th century AD), was successfully launched into a near earth orbit on 19 April 1975, from a USSR cosmodrome Kapustin Yar using a Cosmos-3M launch vehicle. The spacecraft was a 26-sided polygon 1.4 m in diameter and weight of 358 kg. All faces (except the top and bottom) were covered with solar cells. The launch came from an agreement between India and the Soviet Union and signed in 1972. It allowed the USSR to use India ports for tracking ships and launching vessels in return for launching India satellites. The launch of the satellite proved India’s indigenous capability in satellite technology. The satellite also included three scientific experiments. The launch of the satellite created  the expert scientists and engineers who contributed significantly in launching India’s first mission to Moon, Chandrayaan-I.

Aryabhatta was expected to perform three scientific experiments in the areas of X-ray astronomy, Solar neutrons and gamma rays and Aeronomy. However, ISRO was forced to switch-off these three experiments due to problems with the power supply. Some of the experiments successfully conducted were Voice transmission experiment and Transmission of weather data.

A ground station was also set up at Sriharikota near Madras for command and tracking purpose. The satellite was fabricated at HAL, Bangalore. The most of the components used to build the satellite were imported. However, ISRO did gain valuable experience in thermal and power control systems, stabilization and attitude sensor systems, orbiter prediction, telemetry, tracking and telecommand through in-orbit operation and experiment. It was in the orbit till 11 April, 1981.