22 October 2008
Chandrayaan-1 was launched.
On 22 October 2008, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched its first lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
- India’s maiden lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 (meaning moon craft) was launched by ISRO using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
- The probe weighed 1304 kg at launch and 590 kg at lunar orbit. The mission entered into lunar orbit on 8 November 2008. It was orbiting the moon at a distance of 100 km from the lunar surface.
- The purpose of the mission was the chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the moon. The detailed mission objectives were:
- Designing, developing, launching and orbiting a spacecraft around the moon using an Indian-made launch vehicle.
- Conducting scientific experiments using instruments on the spacecraft which would yield data for preparing a 3-D atlas of both the near and far sides of the moon; for chemical and mineralogical mapping of the lunar surface at high spatial resolution with particular focus on magnesium, aluminium, silicon, iron, calcium, titanium, uranium, radon and thorium; for increasing scientific knowledge; and for testing the impact of a sub-satellite on the moon’s surface for future soft-landing missions.
- Detecting water-ice on the moon.
- Chandrayaan-1 carried 11 scientific instruments built in India, the USA, Germany, UK, Sweden and Bulgaria. Five of these instruments were built in India.
- The mission made more than 3400 orbits around the moon.
- On the Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech in 2003, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had announced the project. After that, the National Lunar Mission Task Force set up by ISRO enquired and concluded that ISRO had the capabilities to carry out an Indian mission to the moon. In late 2003, governmental nod was given for the mission.
- The mission sent back to earth 70000 images of the lunar surface. Some of the images had a good resolution of 5 m while many other moon missions provided only a 100 m resolution.
- The mission sent its first image of the entire earth on 25 March 2009. These images were captured by the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) which was one of the scientific payloads of the mission.
- The mission also carried a Moon Impact Probe (MIP) whose purpose was to crash land on the lunar surface and send information that would help in preparing a rover to land on the surface in a future mission. The MIP was successfully deployed and data received from it confirmed the presence of water on the moon’s surface.
- Chandrayaan has confirmed the magma ocean hypothesis which implies that the moon was completely molten once.
- The TMC also captured images of the landing site of the U.S. spacecraft Apollo 15.
- The mission also detected titanium, confirmed the presence of calcium and also acquired the most accurate measurements of iron, aluminium and magnesium on the moon.
- Scientists from ISRO and other participating agencies have termed the mission a success with 90% of the stated objectives being seen through.
- The estimated project cost was Rs.386 Crore or US$60 million.
- Although the mission was intended to last for two years, it ended on 28 August 2009 when communications to the probe were lost suddenly. The probe lasted for 312 days or 10 months and 6 days.
- Some of the chief scientists involved in this project were:
- G Madhavan Nair – the then Chairman of ISRO
- T K Alex – Director, ISRO Satellite Centre
- Mylswamy Annadurai – Project Director of Chandrayaan-1
- K. Radhakrishnan – the then Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre
- Awards received by Chandrayaan-1:
- AIAA SPACE 2009 Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
- International Co-operation Award 2008 from the International Lunar Exploration Working Group for accommodating the most number of international lunar payloads ever (from 20 countries)
- 2009 Space Pioneer Award from the USA-based National Space Society
- In March 2017, the ‘lost’ Chandrayaan-1 was found still in the lunar orbit some 200 km from the lunar surface by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.
- India’s second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2 was launched in August 2019. It is a highly complex mission compared to ISRO’s previous missions and comprises an Orbiter, a Lander and a Rover to explore the unexplored South Pole of the Moon. Communications to the lander named Vikram was lost subsequently and it is not known whether a soft-landing as planned was executed. However, the orbiter continues to probe for scientific knowledge about the Moon.
Also on this day
1900: Birth of revolutionary freedom fighter Ashfaqulla Khan. 1947: The First Kashmir War started. 1954: Death of Jibanananda Das, Bengali poet and novelist.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.