India's cheapest-ever moon mission succeeds

15th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

India, after the United States, Russia and Japan, becomes the fourth country to successfully deploy a moon probe.

New Delhi -- A moon impact probe launched from India's first lunar spacecraft successfully landed on the lunar surface on Friday, an official of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said.

The 35 kilogram probe, with the Indian flag painted on its sides, crash landed at the Shackleton crater near the moon's south pole at 8:31 pm (1501 GMT).

"We have planted the moon probe successfully," ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said at a press briefing.

The successful landing makes India the fourth country -- after the United States, Russia and Japan -- to deploy a moon probe.

The moon probe took 25 minutes to reach the lunar surface after being launched from the orbiting Chandrayaan-1. "We have received signals from the moon impact probe," Nair said.

The scientists at the ISRO control centre said the moon probe's built-in video imaging system had sent back pictures of the lunar surface to the Chandrayaan-1. The orbiter's name means "moon craft" in Sanskrit.

Nair said the ISRO expected to receive data and pictures from the lunar orbiter once it emerges from behind the moon.

Former president APJ Abdul Kalam was also present at the press briefing as ISRO scientists celebrated their achievement. Kalam, one of India's top scientists who has played a key role in developing India's space programme, said it was a moment he would remember.

Nair earlier said ISRO plans to send a second spacecraft, Chandrayaan-II, to the moon in 2012, equipped with a lander which will drop a small robot on the lunar surface.

The ISRO is also working on a proposal to send a spacecraft to Mars, he said.

Chandrayaan-1, described as the cheapest-ever moon mission, was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre near the southern city of Chennai on Oct. 22 and has successfully completed about 95 per cent of its mission over the past 24 days, according to ISRO officials.

For the next two years, the spacecraft will carry out chemical, mineral and geological mapping of the moon with 11 scientific payloads on board.

Five of these payloads were designed by the Indian space agency; three devised and contributed by Germany, Britain and Sweden from the European Space Agency; two from the US space agency; and one from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Two of the payloads - a terrain mapping camera and a radiation dose monitor - have been successfully switched on. The camera has taken pictures of the earth and moon and sent them back to the monitoring centre.


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