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Excitement ahead of moon mission: ISRO Chief

ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair

BANGALORE (PTI): Ahead of next week's Chandrayaan-1 moon mission, excitement and apprehension gripped India's space community, as scientists work round-the-clock for the historic launch.

"Right now, people are working round-the-clock. There is a lot of excitement but at the same time lot of apprehension also," Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) G Madhavan Nair told PTI Friday.

He noted that it is for the first time that an Indian satellite would travel beyond the earth's orbit and to a distance of around four lakh km.

"Mission Challenges are many. Even a slightest error somewhere can throw this mission off-gear", Nair, also Secretary in the Department of Space, said.

"We are checking and rechecking," he said.

According to ISRO officials, the moon mission, slated for launch on October 22 on board homegrown PSLV-C11 rocket from the spaceport of Sriharikota, some 100 km north of Chennai, is a complex one.

It's also for the first time that an Indian spacecraft will carry as many as 11 payloads (scientific instruments) - five from India, three from European Space Agency, two from the US and one from Bulgaria.

Nair said Chandrayaan-1, India's most ambitious space mission to date, would undertake comprehensive mapping of the Moon for the first time in the world. Earlier, missions to moon by some other countries were aimed at specific regions or looked at only certain aspects.

"Basically, this (Chandrayaan-1) is meant for a comprehensive mapping of the lunar surface," Nair said. "We have lined up a set of instruments which is essentially going to give us a full picture of the surface features, the equators, mounts and all those things with a fine resolution. Many of the instruments have a fine resolution of five to ten metres," he said.

The mission would throw more light on the possibility of presence of Helium 3 (said to be a relatively clean fuel for future nuclear fusion reactors) and some for the heavy elements.

"That way in about two years when it’s orbiting the moon, we will have the total surface mapped up," the ISRO chairman said adding Chandrayaan-1 mission would expand the capability of ISRO in terms of travelling outside the earth's gravitational field and building technological competence to go to other planets.

He said ISRO plans to undertake a mission to Mars in 2013.

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