Chandrayaan I: India’s First Unmanned Lunar Mission

Chandrayaan 1
Track Name

Launched on 22nd of October, 2008 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, Chandrayaan I was India’s first unmanned lunar mission which intended to explore, gather and study the various unexplored aspects of the moon and it’s surface. Such Space explorations have inspired many to seek a career in space science, yet students find it difficult to discover the right path to be there.

Developed and launched by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Chandrayaan I provided a major boost to India’s Space Program and it’s studies have fueled future missions and have also contributed significantly to space explorations. Do you love to see the universe through the telescope? Then, you must know that a high level of intelligence, research aptitude, mathematical ability, and computer proficiency are a few personal qualities that you need to have. Discover your love for Universe, take a career counselling session, and know more about the unexplored scope. If you are curious to know the science behind the Chandrayaan I then this article is an absolute reading delight for you.

Key highlights of the blog:-

  • Brief History of The Mission
  • Objectives of The Mission
  • Key Components of The Spacecraft
  • Insights of Chandrayaan I Mission
  • What Happened To Chandrayaan I?
  • The End of The Chandrayaan I Mission
  • The Key Findings of Chandrayaan I
  • The Bottom Line

Brief History Of The Mission

  • The story of Chandrayaan I began when the idea of an Indian Scientific Mission was mooted for the first time in the meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1999. It was then followed up by means of discussion in the Astronautical Society of India in the year 2000. After this, on the basis of the recommendations made by learned professionals of these forums, a National Lunar Mission Task Force was constituted by ISRO.
  • After discussions and assessments were made by technologists and leading Indian scientists over the feasibility of the mission and it’s possible configuration, it was unanimously recommended that India should undertake the mission to the moon.
  • Finally, on 1st of November 2003, the Government of India accepted ISRO’s proposal for India’s First Unmanned Moon Mission, Chandrayaan I.

Objectives Of The Mission

The Chandrayaan I Mission had the following objectives:-

  • To design, develop, launch and orbit the spacecraft around the moon using an indigenously designed launch vehicle.
  • To conduct experiments using the instruments on the spacecraft which would yield data for preparation of a 3D atlas of both far and near sides of the moon and chemical and mineralogical mining of the lunar surface.
  • To expand the existing scientific knowledge of the moon and it’s surface
  • To test the impact of a sub-satellite on the surface of the moon for future moon landing missions.

Key Components Of The Spacecraft

In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives, Chandrayaan I spacecraft was loaded with scientific payloads which had a mass of 55 kg and contained five Indian instruments and six instruments from other countries. The key payloads of Chandrayaan I was:-

  • Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) to produce a high-resolution mapping of the topography of the moon.
  • Hyper Spectral Imager (HYSI) for mineralogical mapping on the surface of the moon.
  • Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI) for determining the surface of the topography by sending infrared laser light towards the lunar surface and detecting the reflected portion of that light.
  • High Energy X Ray Spectrophotometer (HEX) for detecting the presence of radioactive elements on the moon’s surface.
  • Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M³) to map the mineral composition on the surface of the moon. This payload was provided by Brown University and JPL and was funded by NASA.
  • Mini-Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) system to search for lunar polar or water ice. This instrument was designed by a large team of NASA, with a little outer support from ISRO.
  • Along with these, the spacecraft also carried a 35kg Moon Impact Probe (MIP) which was designed to be released from the aircraft and land on the surface of the moon. The MIP consisted of a video camera, a radar altimeter and a mass spectrometer and the Indian Flag was painted on the side panels of the probe.

Insights Of Chandrayaan I Mission

  • On 22nd of October, 2008 Chandrayaan I was launched using the ISRO’s PSLV C-11 from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota.
  • Opposing the idea of launching the spacecraft on a direct trajectory to moon, the Chandrayaan I was sent to the moon in a series of orbit- increasing manoeuvres around Earth over a period of 21 days.
  • During the duration of the mission, ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Peenya, Bangalore tracked and controlled the Chandrayaan I.
  • After fifth and final orbit burn was completed on November 3, 2008, Chandrayaan I entered the lunar orbit on November 8, 2008, after which the satellite was placed in an elliptical orbit that passed over the elliptical regions of the moon.
  • With this, India became the fifth nation to put a vehicle in lunar orbit.
  • After orbiting around the moon for long, the Chandrayaan I spacecraft was finally placed in the mission-specific lunar polar orbit of 100km above the lunar surface on 12th of November,2008. Two of the payloads namely TMC (Terrain Mapping Camera) and RADOM (Radiation Dose Monitor) were switched on and the formerly acquired images of both the Earth and the moon.
  • The Moon Impact Probe (MIP), one of the eleven scientific payloads on board was separated from the spacecraft on 14th of November, 2008 when and continued its nosedive going into free fall for thirty minutes.
  • As it continued to fall, the MIP kept sending information back to the mother satellite which beamed the information back to earth.
  • Following the deployment of the MIP, other scientific instruments on board were also turned on, taking the Chandrayaan I Mission to the next phase.

What Happened To Chandrayaan I?

  • The Moon Impact Probe (MIP) crash-landed near the South Pole of the moon within thirty minutes of its deployment on 14th of November, 2008. However, before crashing the scientific instruments present on its surface has transmitted data to the mother satellite which in turn beamed the information back on Earth.
  • Despite the crash landing of the MIP, the Chandrayaan I continued on its mission to acquire data while orbiting around the moon. However, it’s temperature rose significantly which forced the scientists to operate only one instrument at a time. This rise in temperature was initially considered a result of radiation from the sun. However, later it was attributed to poor regulation by a batch of DC-DC converters onboard. Despite this particular issue, the spacecraft continued mapping of minerals, Apollo landing sites and detecting X-Ray signals.
  • After nine months of operation, the Star-Tracker which was used for pointing attitude orientation failed and the orientation of Chandrayaan I was determined using a two axis sun sensor and bearing from Earth Station. Also, in view of the rising temperature in Chandrayaan I, the orbit was raised to 200 km on 19th of May, 2009 after the spacecraft completed all the mission objectives. It was assumed that changing the orbit would bring down temperature on board. However, this did not happen and thus problems began to surface.

The End Of Chandrayaan I Mission

Although it was expected to operate and transmit vital data of moon and it’s surface for two years, The Chandrayaan I Mission ended due to sudden loss of communication on 28th of August, 2009. Operating for around 312 earth days, the Chandrayaan I satellite made more than 3,400 orbits around the moon when the mission was finally concluded on 29th August, 2009 when no communication could be established despite best efforts.

The Key Findings Of Chandrayaan I

Although the Chandrayaan I Mission was less than ten months in duration, which is even less than the half of the intended plan of two years, the mission completed 95% of the primary objectives and thus was claimed as a successful mission by the scientists.

The Chandrayaan I spacecraft has yielded enough data which have been analyzed to deduce interesting results about lunar topography and the mineral and chemical content present on its surface. Also, despite the crash, the MIP detected water in form of vapor and thus the Chandrayaan I mission claimed the presence of ice water on moon. This claim was also supported by of NASA, which have fueled future explorations of the moon. Also, the MIP transmitted crucial data which were analyzed later and proved vital for soft landing on future moon missions.

The Bottom Line

Wrapping it up, all I would say is, even though the mission lasted for only ten months, the Chandrayaan I’s 11 scientific payloads have played a significant role in bettering our understanding of the moon and have also fueled up various future space missions. Did this raise your interest in Space Science careers?


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