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Countdown for India's first moon mission begins

Through mostly indigenous efforts, India has emerged as a leading global power in space

BANGALORE/CHENNAI (BNS): The 49-hour final countdown for India's first unmanned moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, began at Sriharikota in the early hours of Monday.

If there are no vagaries of weather, the Chandrayaan-1 is to be launched on Wednesday at 6:20am from the spaceport off the Bay of Bengal on India's east coast. The PSLV-C11 would take off from the second launch pad at the facility with the spacecraft.

The countdown began at 5.22 am Monday morning as was scheduled, with about 1000 scientists and technologists going through each and every aspect of India's most complex space programme till date.

According to sources in Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), launch rehearsals for the lunar mission have gone off smoothly. The integrated launch vehicle has already been moved into the second launch pad (umbilical tower), the officials said.

Speaking to the media in Chennai on Sunday, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) Associate Director Dr MYS Prasad said that all the preparatory work was going on as usual and the formal countdown would begin in the early hours of Monday. "All the work including the checking of payloads went satisfactorily. The spacecraft launch would take place as per the schedule," he said.

The SDSC officials said on Sunday evening that after the successful completion of rehearsals, they will ensure that everything was in place for the countdown.

Chandrayaan-1 would be India's first spacecraft mission beyond the Earth orbit. "This would be followed by Chandrayaan-2 which features a lander and a rover. India and Russia would jointly participate in this project," ISRO officials said. However, they said that payloads from other space agencies could be accommodated like done in Chandrayaan-1.

ISRO officials said that there were also proposals of sending unmanned spacecraft to planet Mars as well as to asteroids and comets. "Through such programmes, we intend to undertake the exploration of space besides its primary mission of  developing and utilising space technology for the overall development of the country," they said.

Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft is carrying 11 scientific instruments weighing about 1400 kg. Shaped like a cuboid, it has a solar panel projecting from one of its sides.

The spacecraft structure has been built using composites and Aluminum honeycomb material. The Thermal subsystem consisting of paints, tapes, multi layer insulation blanket, optical solar reflectors, heat pipes, heaters and temperature controllers ensures proper functioning of the spacecraft by keeping its temperature within acceptable limits, ISRO said.

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