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Indian Moon mission is go for 22 October

Hi-tech survey gig for Chandrayaan-1

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

India is all set to launch its first unmanned Moon mission on 22 October - the Chandrayaan-1 probe, which will over two years survey our satellite's surface with a rack of hi-res kit.

According to the BBC, the launch had been planned for April, but was knocked back due to "technical problems". The $83m mission involves input from six other countries, including the US. The European Space Agency has contributed three instruments to the total of 11 science payloads on board.

These include the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC), designed to "map topography in both near and far side of the Moon and prepare a three-dimensional atlas with high spatial and altitude resolution"; the Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI) ("to provide ranging data for determining accurate altitude of the spacecraft above the lunar surface"); and the High Energy X-ray Spectrometer (HEX), which is described as "the first experiment to carry out spectral studies of planetary surface at hard X-ray energies using good energy resolution detectors".

Of course, you can't in all conscience send a spacecraft all the way to the Moon and not throw something at it, so Chandrayaan-1 is offering a piggyback to the 29kg Moon Impact Probe (MIP) destined to, as the name suggests, "impact on the surface".

The means of getting Chandrayaan-1 aloft is India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which the Indian Space Research Agency says has "proved its reliability and versatility by scoring eight consecutive successes between 1994-2005 periods in launching multiple payloads".

Of course, as the BBC notes, the project has taken flak for being "over ambitious" and a "waste of resources" for a nation where "millions still lack basic services". Nonetheless, India's highly ambitious space programme includes dispatching a manned mission to the Moon "in the next few years". ®

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