Countdown for landing Indian probe on moon begins

November 14th, 2008 - 6:10 pm ICT by IANS  

ISROBangalore, Nov 14 (IANS) The countdown has started to make India the fourth country on Earth to land a probe on the moon later Friday, when India’s first unmanned lunar spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 will send down the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) painted in the Indian tricolour.“Hectic preparations are underway to release the tricolour-painted MIP from the mother spacecraft (Chandrayaan-1) at around 8.30 p.m.,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) director S. Satish told IANS.

“Our scientists have begun the ‘countdown’ for hurling the 34 kg probe instrument from an altitude of 100 km onto the lunar surface. It will take 20-25 minutes for the journey down.”

The complex exercise will be carried out from the Indian space agency’s deep space network (DSN) at Byalalu, about 40 km here, with ground support from ISRO’s telemetry, tracking and command network (Istrac) here.

“A small thruster will be activated to eject the probe when the 519 kg spacecraft will be traversing from north to south in the polar orbit and crosses the moon’s equator. Plunging headlong at 4-5 km per minute, the probe (with three instruments on board) is intended to land or crash into the Shackleton crater near the lunar south pole at 88.9 degrees latitude and 0 degree longitude,” Satish said.

During its 100 km fall from the spacecraft, the MIP’s built-in video imaging system will take pictures of the lunar surface from various heights and transmit the data in digital format to the ground station (DSN) for converting them into high resolution images.

It will not plunge down as it would have done on Earth, since the gravity on the moon is one-sixth of that on Earth.

Simultaneously, the probe’s second instrument - a C-band radio altimeter - will measure the altitude of the probe even as it descends towards the moon and will relay the data to the DSN.

The probe’s third instrument - a mass spectrometer - will measure the constituents of the thin lunar atmosphere during the 20-25 minute descent. After the probe hits the lunar surface, the spectrometer will also analyse the chemicals and minerals of the moon and relay the data to the ground station.

“The data from the altimeter will qualify technologies for future landing missions, as we are planning to land a rover on the moon in the second Chandrayaan mission in 2012,” Satish added.

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