Chandrayaan-1 goes to the Moon

I was a child when India launched Rohini, and grew up hearing about Aryabhata and Bhaskara – I mean the satellites, not the ancient scientists and mathematicians they were named after. But I remember Rohini and SLV-3 all too clearly.

My first memories of satellites involves that picture of SLV-3 at its launch – blue skies, white fire. ? I was just starting to hear about the sun and the moon, but I already knew that the earth had another moon in Rohini.

India wll launch the spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 (lit. moon craft) on Wednesday, Oct 22nd.? ISRO’s website says it will map a 3-dimensional atlas of the moon and conduct a mineralogical mapping of the moon. This is the first step – Chandrayaan-2, which will be launched in a couple of years, will have a rover.

Chandrayaan-1 will orbit the moon for 2 years at a distance of 100 kms (62 miles) from the moon’s surface.

ISRO’s website has lots of photos of Chandrayaan-1 and the PSLV rocket- here is one of them (picture courtesy? ISRO.org).

PSLV C-11 on Launchpad. Picture courtesy ISRO.org

PSLV C-11 on Launchpad. Picture courtesy ISRO.org

I’m a little disappointed that ISRO doesn’t have a dedicated website for Chandrayaan.? Its page on Chandrayaan has also not been updated in recent times. The good news is that someone has registered http://chandrayaan-1.com and I only hope it is ISRO.? ISRO’s website does have a brochure on Chandrayaan which provides a lot of information.

There is another Chandrayaan1 website (not maintained by ISRO), where you can read more details about the launch vehicle and the payloads. This website provides RSS feeds of news and so on, presumably news reports from the news wires.

I wish ISRO would provide RSS feeds. I wish ISRO would have a dedicated website that provides us hourly headlines of the launch.? I wish Chandrayaan would twitter to pass the time as it spends 5 ? days traveling to the moon (the twitter id chandrayaan is taken – someone will presumably provide unofficial tweets).? I’d like to get tweets from Chandrayaan, like I do from the Mars Phoenix rover, even if the Phoenix occasionally says things like “Heigh ho, heigh ho! Delivered soil from the Snow White trench to the wet chem lab. Now it’s time to dig dig dig and fill those TEGA cells.

I live some eight thousand odd miles from Sriharikota, and I am tremendously excited at the launch of Chandrayaan.

I am excited because not many countries have come this far – after the US and the Soviets, China and Japan, no one else has sent a craft to the moon.

But I am more excited because, comparisons aside, this is a great moment for our fledgling space program, that we have developed indigneously, at budgets that are a fraction of NASA’s.? Nor can ISRO afford to match the best payscales in the country, but it still has a dedicated set of scientists who are doing some great stuff.

I am excited because I know that for the next two years at least, I can look up at the moon and know there is a tiny piece of India orbiting the moon.

If I am so excited, eight thousand miles away, wouldn’t the people of India be as excited as me, if not more?? Wouldn’t thousands of schoolchildren get their first lesson in astronomy from news of Chandrayaan?

Chandrayaan is going to generate a lot of awareness and interest in science and space and physics.? The real audience for Chandrayaan is not the rest of the world, where Chandrayaan is just going to a blip in the headlines.? It is our children, whom we want to grow up and become future scientists.

I am thinking of my five year old nephew and others like him.? What does it mean to him to grow up knowing that we have a spacecraft on the moon?? What does it mean to grow up dreaming that one day, there will be an Indian astronaut on the moon?? To grow up dreaming that one day, you can be part of the team that puts that astronaut on the moon?? Or to dream that you will be that astronaut?

Chandrayaan-1 will orbit the moon and perhaps it will start sending us results in a week’s time.? But the real results will only start coming ten and twenty years later – when India’s children grow up and choose to specialize in astrophysics and aeronautical engineering and then choose to work in ISRO.

Update: Weather permitting, the launch will be at 6:20 am IST on Oct. 22.? For those of you who do not have access to Indian television, Thejesh is streaming the launch live on his blog.? Thanks, Thejesh!

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14 thoughts on “Chandrayaan-1 goes to the Moon

  1. I, for one, was very impressed and inspired by the Indian space program back when I was a school boy. I was a big time space nerd and eagerly awaited the cryogenic engine and India’s very own GSLV. I even took Aerospace engg as my college major in the US, however, I made peace with the reality that there was no way for me to get a job in aerospace in the US and that the Indian space industry was run Soviet style, all the way down to the whole closed township living that went with it. I hope the Indian space industry continues to grow and eventually become profitable by turning in to a low cost alternative to the big guys.

    Lekhni: Yes, I had ides of going into astrophysics too, until a scientist working in one of the National Physical Labs explained to me just how bureaucratic things were, and what I should expect.

  2. Yes, it’s a proud moment. And more glory to our kids! I’ve always heard good things about ISRO from a few of my friends who have been associated with it at different times. But never visited the place myself.

    Lekhni: Yup, I’ve never been there too, but a classmate has. His company supplies them valves..

  3. I share your excitement and your disappointment at ISROs Web 2.0 failure. A Chandrayaan twitter feed would be Oh, so cool!
    I visited the SHAR range as a school kid in the late ’80s and it was impressive even then. Two decades later, I’m sure it’s even more impressive (and a tad more difficult to get into for security reasons).

    Lekhni: I am still hoping for a tweet from Chandrayaan 🙂

  4. Lekhni:

    “Chandrayaan is going to generate a lot of awareness and interest in science and space and physics.”

    I must be superstitious (no, no, don’t sing that horrid song by Europe) because I keep thinking Challenger… 😦

    Lekhni: I wouldn’t worry. The Challenger disaster was linked to unusually cold weather in the 30s F, or around zero celsius. That’s not likely to happen in Sriharikota 😉
    A cyclone may postpone the launch, but otherwise weather is not a issue – mere rains will just make viewers uncomfortable.

    But if you are generally concerned about the lunch, remember this is only the PSLV, which ISRO mastered nearly 10 years ago. Not the GSLV, which we haven’t launched as often or with that much success.

  5. The moon mission is, quite simply, rock and roll.

    Tremendous achievement.

    Lekhni: Yes, it is! I wonder if we will end up seeing India collaborate with NASA on future manned missions to the moon?

  6. the excitement is high. Sure. But so is the speculation that such a HUGE project was needed NOW, considering the economic status of the country. I’m a supporter of expanding the exploration of space frontiers, though.

  7. @ Lekhni

    My remark was meant to reference “children watching”, not the “O-rings”. 🙂

    “But if you are generally concerned about the lunch..”

    Not concerned about lunch; had some already 😉 Thanks.

  8. As always, a brilliantly comprehensive writeup.
    ??But I am more excited because, comparisons aside, this is a great moment for our fledgling space program, that we have developed indigneously, at budgets that are a fraction of NASA?s. ??: So true, my sentiments exactly.

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