Whenever most of us ponder the space race and the flight of craft to the moon, we think of the USA and the Apollo missions. We also think of the Soviet Union and their Soyuz projects. There are more nations that are actively exploring space than the average American realizes.
We might actually know of the European Space Agency and the Chinese space program. Some are aware of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. But we give little thought to anyone else. If you research just a bit closer, you’ll discover that India is a major player in today’s exploration, too.
The Indian Space Research Organization placed their bets in the race to explore the moon on this date in 2008. A four stage PSLV-C11 rocket containing the Chandrayaan-1 craft successfully launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
We normally think of a moon rocket taking a direct trajectory to the moon. However the Indian’s first lunar mission began the flight by increasingly larger earth orbits. You might think of a very large spiral rather than a simple “S” shaped trajectory. The final earth orbit was completed on November 4th.
November 8th saw Chandrayaan-1 complete its lunar orbit operation. It went into an elliptical orbit passing over the moon’s polar regions. The successful orbit meant that India was the sixth country to place a craft into moon orbit.
During the lunar orbit, the craft was placed into a shrinking spiral configuration until it reached its final orbital position. Soon, a Moon Impact Probe was launched from the craft to intentionally crash to the lunar surface. The impact caused underground soil to eject for later analysis to test for any presence of lunar water.
Besides the usage of Indian technological testing, other nations shared the craft for their own research, most notably the agencies from the UK, the European Space Agency and NASA. American interests used NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper.
The presence of iron on the moon was verified. Scientists were also searching for magnesium, silicon, aluminum, calcium, titanium, radon, uranium and thorium. Water was indeed discovered, too.
Before the Chandrayaan-1 mission prematurly ended due to overheating problems, the Indian Space Agency said the landing sites of the U.S. Apollo Moon missions were mapped. One of the sites included the Apollo 11 mission that sent American astronauts to the moon.
Most importantly, Chandrayaan-1 paved the way for the planned landing of a moon rover from a future joint mission with Russia called Chandrayaan-2. It was originally scheduled to take place this year. The mission was postponed to 2016 because of technical problems in the construction of the Russian landing craft.
Despite the early failure of Chandrayaan-1, most of its major mission goals were accomplished.
The Blue Jay of Happiness thanks the people at the Indian Space Research Centre (ISRO) for much of the background information for today’s post. http://www.isro.org/satellites/chandrayaan-1.aspx