India Heads for the Moon

Categories: Moon to Mars

Chandrayaan-1 Successfully Launched – Next Stop: the Moon

Artist’s view of Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe.
Credit: ISRO

Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the moon, was successfully launched on October 22 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR) in Sriharikota, India.

The PSLV-C11 rocket, an upgraded version of the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO’ s) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, lifted off at 02:52 Central European Summer Time (CEST) and, about 20 minutes later, injected the spacecraft into a highly elongated orbit around the Earth.

This marked the beginning of Chandrayaan-1’s journey to the moon, which will culminate with a major maneuver – the lunar orbit insertion – in about two weeks. Once the spacecraft is orbiting the moon, further maneuvers will progressively lower its altitude to the final 100 km-high circular orbit.

At the earliest opportunity, the spacecraft will eject the ‘Moon Impact Probe’ to provide information about the lunar surface. The mission will then continue from orbit, with remote-sensing studies carried out by its 11 scientific instruments. Three of these instruments were provided by Europe (UK, Germany, Sweden) through ESA. Two instruments were provided by NASA.

A new step in India-Europe collaboration

Mr G Madhavan Nair, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) (centre) and NASA Administrator Michael Griffin (right) signing a Memorandum of Understanding on Chandrayaan-1 at ISRO Satellite Centre in May of 2006.
Credit: ISRO

India and Europe began collaborating on space ventures when, in 1978, the first cooperation agreement between ESA and ISRO was signed. In 1981, an Ariane 1 launcher carried India’s first geostationary satellite, Apple. So far, 13 of India’s INSAT satellites have flown on Europe’s Arianes.

Chandrayaan-1, ISRO’s first mission beyond Earth orbit, marks the beginning of a new era of collaboration between ESA and India in space science.

ESA is making the expertise gained thanks to its SMART-1 lunar mission (2003 – 006) available for this collaboration. Apart from coordinating and supporting the provision of the three European instruments (C1XS, SIR-2 and SARA, versions of the first two of which flew on SMART-1), ESA assisted in areas such as flight dynamics and is supporting data archiving and processing. As a result of the collaboration, ESA and ISRO will share the data from their respective instruments.

"In an era of renewed interest for the Moon on a world-wide scale, the ESA-ISRO collaboration on Chandrayaan-1 is a new opportunity for Europe to expand its competence in lunar science while tightening the long-standing relationship with India – an ever stronger space power," said Prof. David Southwood, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration. "While the exploration of space calls for new challenges to be overcome, joining forces is becoming more and more a key to future successes."

"We congratulate ISRO on the successful launch and we are eagerly looking forward to science to begin," Southwood concluded.

NASA Returns to the Moon

Image of the Moon Mineralogy Mapper before it was added to Chandrayaan-1. The instrument is now successfully on its way to the moon.
Credit: JPL

Chandrayaan-1 not only marks an important collaboration between ISRO and ESA – the mission also carries two NASA instruments designed by NASA. The Moon Mineralogy Mapper is a state-of-the-art spectrometer that will map the entire lunar surface in high detail. The Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR) will map the permanently shadowed polar regions of the moon, which may harbor deposits of water ice. Both instruments will provide important details for the development of future human missions to the moon.

In a recent statement, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin commented, "The opportunity to fly NASA instruments on Chandrayaan-1 undoubtedly will lead to important scientific discoveries. This exciting collaboration represents an important next step in what we hope to be a long and mutually beneficial relationship with India in future civil space exploration."

For more information about the Moon Mineralogy Mapper: visit:

For more information about the Mini-SAR, visit:

To view the NASA press release:

 Related Web Sites

Astrobiology Roadmap Goal 6: Life’s Future on Earth and Beyond
Science by the Light of the Moon
China Goes to the Moon
SMART-1: Chips off the Terrestrial Block
Linking the Earth to the Moon
A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Astrobiology