India’s first unmanned flight to the moon blasted off from Sriharikota, off the Andhra Pradesh coast, early morning on Wednesday and started to cruise around the earth in its designated orbit, minutes after a copybook liftoff.
Carrying over a billion hopes, India’s maiden lunar mission began its historic journey to the moon on Wednesday when an indigenously developed rocket placed the spacecraft into the Transfer Orbit “perfectly”.
A 44-metre-tall and 316-tonne rocket called the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV C11) carried the 1,380-kg lunar orbiter from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, , about 80 km north of Chennai, at exactly 0622 hrs IST.
After 18.2 minutes of the lift-off, ISRO’s warhorse rocket injected Chandrayaan-I into earth orbit.
The cuboid spacecraft built by the Indian Space Research Organisation – likely to be injected into Moon’s orbit on November 8 – has launched the country into the elite club that has sent missions to the moon.
Other members of the club are the US, former Soviet Union, European Space Agency, China and Japan. The US returns to lunar exploration aboard Chandrayaan-1, which is also carrying two NASA instruments in its payload.
The first four phases of the launch were 100 per cent perfect, said the scientists, and ground stations across the world – including the master control station in Bangalore – started getting signals from Chandrayaan.
Hectic activity is on at the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Peenya, Bangalore which will be the country’s nerve-centre for controlling Chandrayaan-I for the next two years.
The Deep Space Network (DSN) at Byalalu will join ISTRAC in tracking the spacecraft for the next six hours.
’It’s a historical moment’
Speaking minutes after the successful liftoff Chairman of the Indian Space Research Agency (ISRO) G Madhavan Nair described the moment as historic. “India has started its journey to the moon. The first leg has gone perfectly. the spacecraft has been launched into orbit,” he said.
Nair pointed out that the launch had gone off perfectly despite heavy rain in and around the spaceport for the last four days. “We’ve been fighting the odds for the last four days,” he said.
But the weather gods relented by Tuesday evening and there no rain when the launch took place in a cloudy morning sky.
Chandrayaan-1 started to orbit the earth on its geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), from which its onboard liquid apogee motor (LAM) will be fired in a series of complex manoeuvres to take it to the lunar orbit – 387,000 km from earth – on Nov 8.
It was a dream come true for about 1,000 space scientists and technologists when PSLV-C11, with the spacecraft atop, blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre of the state-run ISRO.
Within minutes of the 44.4-metre rocket roaring aloft, leaving behind an inferno in the underground inlets of the second launch pad, the mission control centre of the space station erupted with joy and excitement.
Top scientists, led by Nair, space centre director M C Dathan, associate director M Y S Prasad and others shook hands and hugged one another even as the high-security facility reverberated with clapping of hands and cheers.
Former ISRO chairmen U.R. Rao and K. Kasturirangan and space commission member Roddam Narasimaiah, who were present on the occasion, congratulated Nair and his team.
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