Sunday, November 09, 2008

India achieves lunar orbit

There has been barely a mention of India’s achievement of reaching the Earth’s nearest neighbour. Chandrayaan 1 began to orbit the Moon on Saturday after initiating a 817 second burn to put the craft into an elliptical orbit about the satellite. The craft is now in an 11-hour polar ellipse that varies between 7,502 km and 504 km. Further adjustments will bring the spacecraft into a near circular orbit some 100 km above the lunar surface. At this point it will begin to map the surface in 3D and create a detailed analysis of mineral deposition. Other experiments firing a 30kg probe slam into the lunar surface. The Moon Impact Probe (MIP) will record video footage on the way down and measure the composition of the Moon's tenuous atmosphere. On arrival it will also leave an Indian flag upon the Moon’s surface.
CNN and Sky News have not reported on India’s astronomical feat, and the BBC have so far only reported the news on their website. However, unsurprisingly the news dominated the front pages of India’s newspapers on Sunday with leads in The Telegraph, Anandabazar Patrika and the Mumbai edition of DNA.

In other space news, a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope has had a set back after replacement computer modules failed to be delivered. America’s Space Shuttle Atlantis had already been delayed in September after an onboard computer failure. Space Shuttle Endeavour was prepared for a launch date of November 14th, but the unit that was to be fitted on the HST is not considered to be “flight ready”. Another launch is being proposed for April or May next year [CNN]. Endeavour will launch as scheduled, but won’t visit the HST. The mission coded STS-126 will instead visit the International Space Station to deliver supplies and replace crew members. Endeavour will carry a reusable logistics module that will hold supplies and equipment, including additional crew quarters, additional exercise equipment, equipment for the regenerative life support system and spare hardware. STS-126 is the 27th shuttle mission to the International Space Station [NASA].

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