LIFE

On a lunar mission

From time immemorial, the moon has been a fascination for mankind. Can the moon be used to support lunar bases and other human activities? Will terrestrial tourism be a reality in the future? Can it be colonised? These questions still continue to fascinate scientists even as many developed nations are launching missions to the moon.

India is also preparing to launch its first scientific mission - `Chandrayaan-1' - to the moon in September 2007. The Project Director of Indian Moon Mission, M. Annaduri, who was in Kozhikode to inaugurate the `Moon Landing Week' at the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium spoke about the mission.

The idea of undertaking a scientific mission was first mooted by the Indian Academy of Sciences. It was further discussed by the Astronautical Society of India. Later the Indian Space Research Organisation constituted a National Lunar Mission Task Force. '' And about 100 scientists from various fields reviewed the report of the Task Force. Subsequently the Union Government approved the proposal and allocated Rs 360 crores, '' said Dr. Annadurai, who was the member secretary of the task team which prepared the project report for Chandrayaan -1.

So what are the scientific objectives of the mission? The photo geological, mineralogical and chemical mapping will enable to identify different geological units. The mapping could unravel the mysteries about the origin and evolution of the planetary system and the moon-earth system.

Dr. Annadurai, who was also the Mission Director for INSAT family of satellites said that the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will be used for Chandrayaan- 1 mission. The spacecraft will be placed in a polar orbit at an altitude of about 100 km above the Moon's surface.

A Deep Space Network (DSN) station will be set up near Bangalore to provide continuous radio link with the Chandrayaan- 1 spacecraft. This station will track the spacecraft, communicate with it and send commands as well as receive the scientific data from its instruments. The Mission Control Centre (MCC) situated in Bangalore will carry out all spacecraft operations, raw data reception and archival.

Chandrayaan- 1 mission will be a catalyst for the youngsters to purse fundamental research. It will pass on the baton to sophisticated future lunar and planetary mission with possible landing and sample return capability, said Dr. Annadurai, who started his career at the ISRO in 1982. Dr. Annadurai has received the Hariom Ashram Pretit Dr. Vikram Sarabhai Research Award. He is also the Associate Project Director for the Edusat satellite to be launched from Sriharikota on September 10 2004.

By Biju Govind

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