Lunar impactor dispatched from Indian spacecraft
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: November 15, 2008
Chandrayaan 1, India's first deep space probe, released a 75-pound impactor Friday that completed a suicidal nosedive into the moon's south pole about 25 minutes later.
The Indian Space Research Organization released two images late Friday from the impactor's camera. The pictures show the lunar surface during the probe's high speed descent.
Chandrayaan 1 deployed the impactor at 1436 GMT (9:36 a.m. EST) Friday. The small craft performed a quick maneuver to drop itself from a 62-mile-high orbit, aiming for a target near Shackleton Crater near the lunar south pole.
The destructive mpact occured at about 1501 GMT (10:01 a.m. EST). Science data from the probe was transmitted to Chandrayaan 1, which will play back the information for scientists in the next few days.
The impactor was designed and built by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, part of ISRO.
Scientists hoped to test technologies for future soft landings on the moon and study the tenuous lunar atmosphere.
The next Indian lunar mission, Chandrayaan 2, will launch in 2011 with a lander and rover, officials said.
The Moon Impact Probe was a critical demonstration to help engineers designing Chandrayaan 2, according to ISRO.
Ten other instruments aboard Chandrayaan 1 will be tested in the next few weeks, and science operations are expected to begin before the end of the year.
Chandrayaan 1's main black-and-white camera and radiation monitor have already been turned on. Other sensors from India, Europe and the United States will be turned on starting next week.
Scientists expect data from Chandrayaan 1 to help create the most detailed global chemical map of the moon showing mineral concentrations across the lunar surface. Researchers will also make a three-dimensional terrain map of the moon based on information yielded by the mission.
"We are going to look at the moon slightly differently than the people who are looking at it (now). We're looking at the moon very systematically," said Mylswamy Annadurai, Chandrayaan 1 project director at ISRO. "We're going to make a repository of the whole moon and its contents."
Chandrayaan means "moon craft" in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India.
The spacecraft arrived in lunar orbit Nov. 8 after an Oct. 22 launch from India's east coast. The probe finished lowering its orbit Wednesday to an altitude of 62 miles.