Today marks the completion of 11 years since India's first successful mission to Moon was launched from Sriharikota. Chandrayaan-1 used the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C11) and was launched on October 22, 2008, by the ISRO. It operated until August 2009. The spacecraft carried 11 scientific instruments built in India, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria. It orbited around the Moon at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface for chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the Moon.
How did Chandrayaan-1 happen?
The idea of undertaking an Indian scientific mission to Moon was initially mooted in a meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1999, which was followed up by discussions in the Astronautical Society of India in 2000.
A National Lunar Mission Task Force was then constituted by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) after the recommendations made by learned members were taken into consideration.
Later, deliberations of the Task Force saw the participation of leading Indian scientists and technologists, who provided an assessment on the feasibility of an Indian Mission to the Moon as well as dwelt on the focus of such a mission and its possible configuration.
After detailed discussions, it was unanimously recommended that India should undertake the Mission to Moon, particularly in view of the renewed international interest in the moon with several exciting missions planned for the new millennium. In addition, such a mission could provide the needed thrust to basic science and engineering research in the country including new challenges to ISRO to go beyond the Geostationary Orbit.
Further, such a project could also help bring in young talents to the arena of fundamental research. Academia would also find participation in such a project intellectually rewarding.
Subsequently, Government of India approved ISRO's proposal for the first Indian Moon Mission, called Chandrayaan-1 in November 2003.
How did Chandrayaan-1 perform?
The Chandrayaan-1 mission performed high-resolution remote sensing of the moon near infrared (NIR), low energy X-rays and high-energy X-ray regions. One of the objectives was to prepare a three-dimensional atlas (with high spatial and altitude resolution) of both near and far side of the moon.
It aimed at conducting chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface for distribution of mineral and chemical elements such as Magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Calcium, Iron and Titanium as well as high atomic number elements such as Radon, Uranium and Thorium with high spatial resolution.
Various mission planning and management objectives were also met.
The mission goal of harnessing the science payloads, lunar craft and the launch vehicle with suitable ground support systems including Deep Space Network (DSN) station was realised, which was helpful for future explorations like the Mars Orbiter Mission.
Mission goals like spacecraft integration and testing, launching and achieving lunar polar orbit of about 100 km, in-orbit operation of experiments, communication/ telecommand, telemetry data reception, quick look data and archival for scientific utilisation by scientists were also met.