The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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To moon, but minus man

Bangalore, April 20 (PTI): India will go ahead with an “unmanned mission” to the moon ahead of a planetary mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation has said.

“This is a very modest mission that we are planning.... If everything goes well and the country has interest, it will be the first step of a larger plan for a planetary exploration,” Isro chairman K. Kasturirangan said.

The unmanned moon mission, christened “Somayana-1”, is awaiting government approval and is expected to be carried out in 2007-08.

Dismissing the dissenting voices raised by some scientists about the mission, Kasturirangan said the scientific community was very excited about it.

“They see a lot of science is possible, contrary to something that has appeared,” he said on media reports of scientists from space and other fields questioning Isro’s rationale of undertaking a lunar mission.

He said the organisation’s plan was similar to that of other countries that were undertaking moon mission. “It is also in conformity with the new decade and new century’s direction elsewhere in the world — that of planetary exploration,” Kasturirangan said.

He asserted that the mission would be a boost to Indian science and technology, besides giving the young generation an opportunity to work on new technologies and a “new direction” for the country.

Even while waiting for government approval, Kasturirangan said Isro was gearing up to master new technology areas in control guidance and navigation of orbits for the mission.

During the review meeting of the national task force on the moon mission held on April 4 in Bangalore, scientists were excited and saw “lot of science on the one hand” and “technology” on the other to benefit from the project, he said.

Dismissing the view that Rs 400 crore for the mission could be utilised for other socio-economic projects, the Isro chief pointed out that money was available for any worthwhile development in the country.

“There is money available for any development effort. It need not be from the space budget. Look at the opportunities from the mission,” he said.

Isro plans to send a low altitude (100 km) polar orbiter for global imaging, mineralogy and chemical mapping with high spatial and spectral resolution sensors.

The mission will also study the South Pole Aitken region, besides the entire north and south polar regions, and conduct high energy X-ray studies from a distance of 100 km from the moon’s surface, Isro officials said.

Several stable and radioactive elements will be obtained to understand the moon’s origin and its evolutionary history.

To be launched using the indigenous Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, the proposed moon probe plans to prepare a three-dimensional atlas (with a high spatial and altitude resolution of 5-10 metres) of some regions of the moon, the officials said.

Kasturirangan also said private television broadcasters, V-Sat operators, the telecom department and Prasar Bharati have booked all transponders in Insat-3a, India’s latest multi-purpose satellite, which is expected to be fully operational by May 12.

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