‘India over the Moon’, the Times headline, summed up the uniqueness of India’s first ever unmanned mission to the Moon over several previous space missions. “The spacecraft Chandrayaan is designed to measure the composition of the Moon’s surface in full for the first time ever,” said Dr Ian Crawford, who led the team that developed the CIXS camera — the sophisticated X-ray Spectrometer camera — at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.
“Apollo had only partly measured the surface of the moon, not of the whole Moon. But since Chandrayaan will go past the Moon and not be under or alongside of it, the camera can record its entire surface.
“Chandrayaan would also provide information on the distribution of chemical elements. We expect a number of new discoveries,” said Dr Crawford, part of the first UK -India collaboration in space science, where both teams.
“There is still a lot we don’t know about the Moon. (So) accurate maps of the surface composition will help us unravel its internal structure and geological history. Among other things this (Chandrayaan mission) will help us better understand the origin of the Earth-Moon system.”
Chandrayaan’s flight to its final position 95 km above the Moon was interpreted variously by space scientists and writers as, India’s re-emergence as a global power, as the soaring of its ambitions beyond the world, of opening new horizons. Times added, “India that deserves a permanent seat in the Security Council, is a power not to be ignored”.
Criticism that the launch expected to cost £45m while over 450 million Indians live below the poverty line was dismissed as being ludicrous. “No doubt there will be a great deal of tut-tutting that India has launched a rocket while millions of its citizens live in abject poverty. But it is cheering to discover that this sentiment seems not to affect Indians themselves, who have responded to their foray into space with unqualified pride,” said space science writer Andrew McKie.
Bates Gill, the director of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute said, “It’s a combination of national prestige and the spin-offs for technology.
The third aspect is the military one. The ultimate high ground: space.”
Henry R Hertzfeld, a professor at the Space Policy Institute of George Washington University said “Space is a global enterprise.” Dr Crawford added “India has made an excellent contribution to the international effort in lunar exploration and positioned itself as a major player for international joint programmes.”