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India to kick up moon dust

india Updated: Sep 05, 2006 02:28 IST
Highlight Story

India’s dreams of conquering space may not exactly be turbulence-free but its ambitions remain intact. Barely two months after the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) disaster, Indian space scientists are all geared up to kick up some moon dust — just as their European peers did on Sunday.

The scientists are designing a 30-kg impactor that will ride onboard Chandrayaan-I — the first indigenous orbiter scheduled for launch in 2007-08 — and crash into the moon to toss up a plume of soil and scientific data on minerals and water.

“We will release the impactor at the beginning of our lunar mission and record the details (of lunar surface and soil) as it creates a crater on the surface. It will be a free fall, but we want to try and glide it to a place chosen by us,” Dr JN Goswami, principal investigator for Chandrayaan-I and director of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, said.

The impactor will be designed and fabricated at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Trivandrum, Dr Goswami added.

On September 6 and 7, scientists associated with Chandrayaan-I will meet in Bangalore to discuss the fine points of this project — time lines for studies planned onboard the orbiter, safety aspects of the spacecraft and its payloads and other related issues. The orbiter will be jettisoned into space by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and circle the moon at a distance of 100 km over two years. In addition to Indian payloads, it will carry instruments of NASA and the European Space Agency.

Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are carrying on with the challenging Chandrayaan project despite the recent GSLV setback. The rocket — carrying the state-of-the-art INSAT-4C communication satellite — blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Spaceport in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on July 10 only to veer off course a few seconds after lift-off and burst into flames. However, this unsuccessful flight was preceded by a string of snag-free flights — eight of the PSLV and three of the GSLV — since October 1994.

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