South Asian nation launches an unmanned probe to map the lunar surface. Fort Worth, TX (WiredPRNews.com)— India launched its first lunar satellite on Wednesday.
The rocket carrying the orbiter known as Chandrayaan-1, which is Sanskrit for ‘moon craft,’ launched successfully earlier this week from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, according to an October 22, 2008 Associated Press article by Gavin Rabinowitz and Seth Borenstein that appeared on Yahoo.com.
The objective, according to the Associated Press article, is for the 3,000-pound satellite to deliver detailed maps of the lunar surface that could help reveal the moon’s mineral content of the two-year orbit. While India has launched weather and communication satellites into earth orbits, this is the nation’s first lunar orbit attempt, according to the AP article.
Japan and China have already launched lunar orbiters, prompting an Asian space race, according to the Associated Press article. The $80 million mission will also examine the lunar surface for future moon landings.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is managing the lunar program and, according to an October 23, 2008 article by Michael Barkoviak that appeared on the Daily Tech website, the satellite orbit only 60 miles above the moon’s surface. At this close range, along with the 3-D technology, the Indian satellite should be able to get highly detailed images of moon’s surface.
By contrast, most low-earth orbiting satellites are at least 100 miles above the surface, according to a Wikipedia entry on the subject. Most earth weather and communication satellites orbit at much greater distances. This can range from a few hundred miles for low-earth orbits to over 22,000 miles for geosynchronous orbits.