An entirely indigenously manufactured device, the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) with the tricolour painted on it — about the size of a large television set — ejected from the Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft, touched down successfully on the Moon’s surface at 8.31 pm on Friday, marking a giant leap forward for Indian space research.
Seconds later, nearly 400,000 km away, at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) station in Bangalore, a scientist emerged to greet the waiting crowd of newspersons and onlookers. Wordlessly, he gave the ‘thumbs up’ signal. The crowd erupted into cheers.
Inside, in the control room, with its large, blue screens all over the walls, all the way to the ceiling, scientists monitoring the progress of India’s Moon mission beamed and hugged one another, while badam sweets from a box resembling the MIP were distributed. “We were all as excited as little children,” M Annadurai, project director of Chandrayaan, told HT. “The mission was accurate to the second,” Annadurai added. The MIP was released at 8.06 pm, while Chandrayaan was orbiting over the Malarpet Mountain on the Moon. It landed in the Moon’s Shakleton Crater, 25 minutes later.
“During its descent the MIP has taken visuals of the Moon, from its equator to its south pole, never taken before,” said Annadurai. “This data will be downloaded from Chandrayaan later tonight.”
“It’s been a great night, very exciting to watch,” said Paul D Spudis, a senior lunar scientist from NASA’s Lunar and Planetary Institute at Houston. He is at ISRO to monitor the data from a payload Chandrayaan is carrying for NASA.
The MIP contains a spectrometer to analyse the lunar atmosphere, an altimeter to measure heights and a video camera. “Our next big task is to put an Indian astronaut into space in an Indian spacecraft, and after that the unmanned mission to Mars. For both these the data we shall now collect will be of great use,” said ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair.