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Is Chandrayaan an undermarketed space event?

Written by Rajesh Kumar on October 15, 2008 – 6:00 pm

(This post is dedicated to all of us who have grown up looking at the Chandamama, as well as my daughter who is all excited about Chandrayaan)

clip_image002 To the uninitiated, Chandrayaan is India’s first space mission to moon. And no, it is not manned.

On 22nd Oct 2008, Indian Space Research Organisation will light up a 316 ton launch vehicle, that will  travel to the moon which is, about 3,84,000 km away. In other words, if you travel on the equator, one circle is just 40,000 kms. A flight to moon, even if traveling on a straight line is more than nine times that distance. Unfortunately, the flight is not a straight line. And no, the entire rocket would not reach the moon. Read on.

The rocket will go only a few hundred kms up and leave the Chandrayaan in an elliptical orbit of earth. Only the 1304 kg ’spacecraft’ a.k.a Chandrayaan would make the rest of the journey. At specific points in the orbit, a rocket would be fired to change the direction and altitude towards the moon. Recall that it takes a minimum speed of 11.2 km/second to escape from earth’s gravity. Finally, the Chandrayaan would reach to an orbit of 100 km above moon surface and release the payloads.Here’s an interesting graphic depicting this flight path. The journey could take 5 and a half days.

One of the payloads would actually impact the surface of the moon.

Should the launch go wrong and the rocket appear to endanger life or  property, ISRO has authorized an officer to destroy the rocket. (In fact, he has used this authority to destroy a rocket in an earlier launch)

What’s the big deal about Chandrayaan? The big deal is because it is not everyday that someone can fly a rocket to moon. It distinguishes the men from the boys.

I would have loved to see some more content available via the ISRO website to keep the excitement going. Maybe a frequently updated blog, a mailing list, some interviews, some photos and videos, an RSS feed, a Facebook community and perhaps frequents Tweets!

The Isro page on Chandrayaan -1 is apparently last updated in Jan 2007. I find it difficult to believe nothing significant about the project was considered worth getting added in the last eighteen months. Contrast that with NASA website, where any mission page has a huge build-up, with live coverage in text and video form. In fact, Nasa has a picture rich page dedicated to Apollo Program Program which took astronauts to moon.


Few imaginary Tweets  from Chandrayaan 1:

  1. At lift-off: Good riddance from mankind!
  2. Hurrah, I figured it out- the sky’s black and not blue.
  3. Been flying two full days and still circling earth. No variety in life!
  4. Midway but damn excited. 
  5. Just woke up after a sleep, the moon is BIG!
  6. Looks like we have reached, I am so damn spacelagged!
  7. Whose footmark is this, Neil who?

(Photo Courtesy: Shrinidhi Hande’s photo blog)

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2 Comments to “Is Chandrayaan an undermarketed space event?”

  1. RanjitNo Gravatar Says:

    I would put it in another way though. NASA is a bit on the higher side when it comes to hype creation & ISRO seems to first concentrate on getting the job done.
    I had been to NASA’s kennedy space center in florida last month. They still are happy boasting in the glory of the apollo missions. Was pretty disappointed to not see much on the Mars missions. And yep, they had a shuttle experience simulator which they had hyped about too much, both in the website and at the premises. It turned out to be a big dud.!

  2. vinay kumarNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Rajesh,
    Frankly I think we are (literally) chasing the moon.
    Its been done before and the advanced countries have stopped wasting their money on this futile exercise.
    Stories of research about origins or mankind or the universe etc as all wearing thin.
    If there is going to be serious technological benefits for defence or agriculture or industry let them say so and I shall accept it. However talking of metaphysical (and imagined) benefits is hogwash and should be discouraged.
    Only the scientists and their vendors are happy with this ersatz exercise.
    It would be far better to utilize the resources in providing water, food production, home land security and eradicating poverty.

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