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My heart skipped a beat or two, says Madhavan Nair

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In this photograph taken from tv, ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair (left), on his left is M.Annadurai, Project Director, Chandrayaan-1, and at extreme right is T.K. Alex, ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore.
In this photograph taken from tv, ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair (left), on his left is M.Annadurai, Project Director, Chandrayaan-1, and at extreme right is T.K. Alex, ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore.

Divya Gandhi

Jubilation after a tense 20-minute countdown for Chandrayaan-1

Bangalore: “The last 20 minutes were so critically important, I can say my heart skipped a beat or two,” G. Madhavan Nair, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, said after Chandrayaan-1 was successfully inserted into the Moon’s orbit on Saturday evening.

No fewer than 500 scientists, led by Mr. Nair, had gathered at the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Peenya, near here, where the complex ‘lunar orbit insertion manoeuvre’ was performed at 4.50 p.m.

With this manoeuvre, India becomes the fifth country to send a spacecraft to the Moon’s orbit.

“Think of the satellite as a parachute free-falling from an aircraft,” Mr. Nair told The Hindu.

“We had to ensure that Chandrayaan’s enormous velocity in deep space was arrested in time and also that it was set on the right track. A host of commands had to be given to ensure that all elements were in good form.”

“Followed its schedule”

Chandrayaan-1 followed its schedule “down to the last millisecond,” said S.K. Shivakumar, Director of ISTRAC. “Traditionally it is the launch vehicle that gets the applause. This time I was pleased that the command network too got accolades.”

The manoeuvre was performed in 14 minutes and the lunar craft was captured by the Moon’s gravity at 5.04 p.m.

The following two hours saw the gathering of scientists in an undeniably jubilant mood, Dr. Shivakumar said.

Sending a constant stream of data from 45 km away was the Indian Deep Space Network at Byalalu, where two dish antennae —18 metres and 32 metres — have been tracking Chandrayaan’s every move since it was launched on October 22.

The spacecraft is now orbiting the Moon at an elliptical orbit that passes over its polar regions. The nearest point of this orbit (periselene) lies at a distance of about 500 km from the Moon’s surface while the farthest point (aposelene) is at about 7,500 km.

“In the next few days the height of Chandrayaan’s orbit will be brought down to 100 km above the Moon’s surface,” Dr. Shivakumar said.

On November 15, the Moon impact probe would be released onto the lunar terrain and on November 18 the other scientific experiments would be switched on.

Manmohan’s pat

In a statement issued in Muscat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated ISRO scientists on Chandrayaan’s successful entry into the lunar orbit.

Corrections and Clarifications

The third paragraph of a report "My heart skipped a beat or two, saysMadhavan Nair" (November 9, 2008) was "With this manoeuvre, India becomesthe fifth country to send a spacecraft to the Moon's orbit", leading to areader saying it was sixth - the others being the United States, Russia,Japan, China and members of the European Space Agency (ESA). TheCorrespondent clarifies that India is indeed the fifth country. The ESAcannot be considered a country as it is a consortium of 17 countries:Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy,Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerlandand the United Kingdom.

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