| PSLV-C4 takes off from Sriharikota. (PTI file picture)
Bangalore, March 14: A number of countries are keen to hitch a ride on India’s mission to Moon, a development that has fired the spirits of the country’s space scientists as they work towards the first voyage in inter-planetary exploration.
Requests from agencies in Russia, Canada, Germany and Israel are among a slew of proposals received by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) for Chandrayaan-I, a satellite scheduled for launch in 2007.
The sensors onboard would beam scientific data on minerals and water on Moon as the satellite hovers 100 km above for two years. The three-dimensional map planned by space scientists would help piece together evidence of origin and evolution of the solar system and Moon.
It would also mark the beginning of efforts for colonisation and mining of rare minerals and resources to provide the fuel of the future. This project would propel India into the space race in South Asia, for China has planned a manned mission to Moon, Chaang’e-I, around that time.
The 1,100-kg Indian satellite would be hoisted into space by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, India’s space-port off the east coast (100 km from Chennai). However, the satellite would shed half its weight (utilising the fuel onboard) while inching its way towards Moon.
Isro scientists are optimistic that some more countries would opt to participate in the project to put scientific payloads onboard the satellite.
The pact with overseas organisations would mean that Isro would make room for 20 kg of instruments or sensors in return for sharing of data gathered on the lunar surface.
“We have received over a dozen responses, including a few from foreign countries. They include experiments related to study of charged particles, synthetic aperture radar for imaging the surface of Moon, study of gravity waves and so on. We will start analysing them after all proposals are received,” G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of Isro, said in an interview.
The organisation is implementing the Rs 380-crore project by constituting a core group with a 46-year-old engineer, M. Annadurai, as project director.
“We have identified project teams for realising the spacecraft, realising the scientific instruments, establishing the deep space network station (to receive data from the spacecraft and for controlling the mission) and so on. This mission involves multi-disciplinary, multi-centre activities. So, scientists and engineers of different disciplines spread over different centres of Isro as well as outside Isro will be participating in the mission,” Nair said.
The first instalment of funds, about Rs 70 crore, would be released during the next financial year along with commencement of work on the deep space network station near Bangalore.
The project would also gain in terms of technology and gadgets in the light of renewed relations between Nasa and Isro. In late June 2004, space scientists from the two organisations are scheduled to meet in Bangalore and evolve areas of cooperation in space research as well as in commercial areas — manufacture and launch of satellites.
Although space scientists are being egged on by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and some Union ministers, like George Fernandes, to embark on a manned mission to Moon and launch a probe to study Mars, Nair said there are no such immediate plans.
“Our GSLV-Mk III (rocket), which is now under development, will have a capability to place up to 10 tonnes of payload in low earth orbit. It is sufficient for a manned mission. But the design of manned capsule, including life support system and re-entry technologies, which are quite complex, are to be developed,” he added.