Chalo chand ke pass chalo
B K Upmanyu | 19 Oct 2008

Old news 

The Moon mission of India Chandrayaan-1 is ready for launch on Wednesday from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. So all eyes will be on Sriharikota on Wednesday morning. This  is the country's most ambitious scientific space expedition; previous space flights have been meant mostly for putting communications and other satellites into earth orbit. The spacecraft has been shifted to the launch pad, which is slated rocketing for moon on October 22.

The moon mission of India was earlier scheduled in April current year, which was delayed by six months due to some technical glitches and would now be leaving on October 22. Six countries were directly involved in this Indian project costing Rs3.86 billion. The mission  is not expensive. Its total cost is Rs 368 crore, including about Rs 100 crore for establishing the Deep Space Network near Bangalore, for receiving the signals from the satellite, which will be available for use by future projects as well. It so happens that, mainly because of the low cost of its scientific and technical manpower, Isro has a significant cost advantage when compared with the space organisations in other countries. There is no reason why this should not be developed into a long-term business advantage. But a key issue will be industrial spin-offs from space projects. Isro intends to get many components of the spacecraft custom-built by private suppliers, based on Isro’s designs.It will map  three-dimension Atlas of the moon besides pointing out the layers of chemical and minerals on the moon. This is a significant stride in space technology because the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has thus far sent a satellite up to only around 36,000 km in space, whereas Chandrayaan-1 will travel 10 times as far, escaping earth’s gravity pull in doing so, to settle into a lunar orbit. This flight is a precursor to a manned mission to the moon, some six years from now. If all goes well, Chandrayaan-1 may even mark a site on the moon for the first Indian astronaut to put his/her feet on. For this, a specially fabricated instrument will be made to crash-land on the lunar surface and conduct impact studies and other investigations of the possible landing location for the manned lunar craft that is to follow.

The expedition will result in a high-resolution, three-dimensional atlas of both the near and far sides of the moon. Some of the instruments on board the spacecraft are designed specifically to explore and identify deposits of high atomic number elements, such as radon, uranium and thorium, which can serve as raw materials for nuclear power plants. What is of special interest is the probe into the possibility of locating helium-3, deemed a clean nuclear fuel that can help meet the world's energy needs.