September 23, 2019

Astro-Vid Of the Week: The Launch of Chandrayaan-1

NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, one of several instruments that flew aboard Chandrayaan-1. (Credit: NASA/JPL).

Five years ago on this day, India reached for the Moon with the launch of Chandrayaan-1.  The PSLV-XL rocket lifted off from Satish Dhawan space center at 00:52 Universal Time, and reached an orbit around the Moon 18 days later.

This represented a first for the Indian Space Research Organization. Chandrayaan-1 carried 11 science payloads, which included five Indian science packages and 6 foreign instruments, including two funded by NASA. Chandrayaan (meaning Moon-craft in Hindi) produced over 70,000 3-D images covering 70% of the lunar surface, gave us high-resolution spectral data concerning lunar mineralogy, and most importantly, provided compelling evidence for water ice in the permanently shadowed polar regions of the Moon.

It’s always fascinating to watch the launches of other space agencies to see how they approach countdown and liftoff:

Chandrayaan-1 also released a Moon Impact Probe which struck near Shackleton crater on November 14th, 2008 carrying a small Indian flag to the lunar surface. The Moon Impact Probe also struck up a debris plume which Chandrayaan-1 was able to analyze for the presence of water. The probe made 3,400 orbits over its 312 day-long career, and crashed into the Moon sometime last year.

And India has an even more ambitious mission leaving Earth atop a PSLV rocket soon: its Mars Orbiter Mission. Also named Mangalyaan-1 (meaning Mars-craft in Hindi), Mars Orbiter will carry a suite of instruments to orbit the Red Planet, including a methane detector. The Mars Orbiter Mission will join NASA’s MAVEN next month in making the trip during the biennial 2013 window.

Congrats to the ISRO… perhaps Mangalyaan-1 will take to space on or near the November 3rd New Moon festival of Diwali?

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