November 14, 2008

Chandrayaan-1 Probe Lands On Moon

India's first unmanned moon mission touched down on the moon on Friday, according to Indian Space Research Organization officials.

The Moon Impactor probe detached itself from the Chandrayaan-1 (moon vehicle) about 100 km from the moon's surface and crash-landed on the south pole of the moon at 10:01 a.m. EST, making India the fourth nation to have a presence on the Moon.

Miniature Indian flags painted on four sides of the MIP signaled the country's symbolic entry into moon to coincide with the birth anniversary of the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, observed as Children's Day.

"It will signify the entry of India on Moon," an ISRO official said.

The MIP consists of a C-band Radar Altimeter for continuous measurement of altitude of the probe, a video imaging system for acquiring images of the surface of moon from the descending probe and a mass spectrometer for measuring the constituents of extremely thin lunar atmosphere during its 20-minute descent to the lunar surface.

During its 20-minute descent to the moon's surface, MIP took pictures and transmitted them back to the ground. The first pictures are expected to be made public on Saturday.

SK Shivakumar, director of ISRO Telemetry's tracking and command network, called the mission "a flawless operation."

The India Space Research Organization hopes to analyze the lunar dust to find Helium 3, an isotope which is very rare on earth but is sought to power nuclear fusion and could be a valuable source of energy in the future.

In April, India sent 10 satellites into orbit from a single rocket, and ISRO says it plans more launches before a proposed manned mission to space and then on to Mars in four years' time.


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