We, the human race is looking at THE MOON for centuries with interest and surprise. None of the lover's narration of his girl's face is complete without the moon. No poet left the moon untouched in his verses. The wish to explore the moon budded in Indian minds even before the birth of Jesus Christ. But various political and economic reasons in the pages of history stopped us for 200 years.

Finally it happened on 22nd October 2008, Wednesday, early morning at ISRO's Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, off the Andhra Pradesh coast. The unmanned spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 launched by PSLV-XL has sent the first imagery of earth taken from space (a black and white picture of Australian coast), a couple of days back which shows that performance is absolutely normal.

The question on the need to have such a mission by a developing nation is answered elegantly by the low cost of the project - around Rs.400 crores. Apart from this, the scientific objectives of the mission answers the further queries: 1. To prepare a three-dimensional atlas of both near and far side of the moon, 2. To conduct chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface.

Chandrayaan-1 is cuboid in shape of approximately 1.5 m side weighing 1380 kg at launch and 675 kg at lunar orbit. The power is generated by a 30 degree canted, single-sided solar array (with 750W of peak power). It uses X-band, 0.7m diameter parabolic antenna for payload data transmission. To reach the lunar orbit it uses a bipropellant integrated propulsion system (with a mission life of 2 years).

Telemetry, Tracking & Command (TTC) communication is in S-band frequency and the scientific payload data transmission is in X-band frequency. It has 3 Solid State Recorders (SSRs) onboard to record data from payloads. It also has 2 star sensors, gyros and four reaction wheels for inertial reference. The heart of the spacecraft is the following 11 science payloads which it carries:
  • Terrain Mapping stereo Camera (TMC) - Topography Mapping
  • Hyper Spectral Imaging camera (HySI) - Mineralogical Mapping
  • Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI) - Topography Mapping
  • High Energy X-ray spectrometer (HEX) - Volatile Transport
  • Moon Impact Probe (MIP) - Lunar Atmospheric constituent
  • Chandrayaan-1 X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS) - Chemical Mapping
  • Near Infra Red spectrometer (SIR-2) - Mineralogical Mapping
  • Sub keV Atom Reflecting Analyser (SARA) - Magnetic Field Mapping
  • Radiation Dose Monitor Experiment (RADOM) - Radiation Environment
  • Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR) - Search for water-ice
  • Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) - Mineralogical Mapping

The last 6 payloads are part of ISRO's Announcement of Opportunity (AO) from international proposals like ESA, NASA and few others. PSLV-XL (PSLV-C11), an upgraded version of PSLV was used to inject the spacecraft into a 255 x 22860 km orbit. 6 strap-on motors in it carried 4 tonne more propellant compared to PSLV which increases in the length of each strap-on.

The Ground Segment for the mission comprises of 3 major elements : Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN), Mission Operations Complex (MOX) and Indian Space Science Data Centre (ISSDC). This trio provides to and fro conduit of communication, secures the spacecraft health, maintains the orbit and attitude, conducts the payload operations and fetches the scientific data from the payloads.

Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was launched in an highly elliptical initial orbit (IO) with perigee (nearest point to the Earth) of about 257 km and an apogee (farthest point from the Earth) of about 22,858 km. After a few revolutions in the initial orbit, the spacecraft's Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) firing would be done, when the spacecraft is near perigee, to raise the apogees to 37,421 km and 73,925 km respectively.

Subsequently, the LAM is fired to take the spacecraft to extremely high elliptical orbit with apogees 199,277 km and 269,201 km. Later the spacecraft would be raised to an orbit with 1,019 km perigee and 386,194 km apogee. Once it reaches the vicinity of the moon, the spacecraft is slowed down sufficiently so as to enable the gravity of the moon capture it into an elliptical orbit (LC).

After a careful and detailed observation the height of the spacecraft's orbit will be finally lowered to its intended 100 km circular polar orbit. Following this, the moon Impact Probe (MIP) would be ejected from Chandrayaan-1 to impact on the lunar surface. Afterwards, all the scientific instruments/payloads are commissioned sequentially and explores the Moon for two years.

On successful launch, "Our baby is on way to the moon" said Mylswamy Annadurai, the project director of Chandrayaan-1 (from Coimbatore which is my native too!) who along with the other ISRO scientists spent several sleepless nights in the mission. "I cannot sleep tonight also. we need to nurture it and watch it grow like a child and I can go to sleep only once the satellite enters orbit" - he added.

ISRO is also planning for another mission Chandrayaan-2 in 2011, jointly with Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos). It will have a rover which would move on wheels on the lunar surface, pick up samples of soil or rocks, do a chemical analysis and send the data to the spacecraft orbiting above. The rover with an an operating life-span of a month will run predominantly on solar power.

When G. Madhavan Nair, the chairman of the ISRO presented Abdul Kalam with a picture of the Earth taken by Chandrayaan-1, Kalam told a gathering of senior scientists. "Every Indian should be proud of the Chandrayaan. I desire to see an Indian scientist land on the moon by 2021. I would be 90 years old then”. I would be 37 years old then. Let us wait with the fire of patriotism inside, Mr.Kalam.

Chandrayaan-1 Animation:


Courtesy: Development and Educational Communication Unit (DECU), ISRO


L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

Chandrayaan is a great achievement. We should be proud about the capabilities of Chandrayaan and how it is one of the best satellites now tracking the moon. But I hate it when bloggers like you go on and on about its low cost. The cost is not a great achievement We must pay our scientists more.

சரவணகார்த்திகேயன் சி. said...

@ L Venkata Subramaniam

1. I strongly agree that the government should pay more for scientists in organisations like ISRO, DRDO, BARC, CSIR etc (I personally know it because I quit the offer as DRDO scientist last year nothing because of the reason of low pay).
2. The term "low cost" or Rs. 400 crores does NOT include the salaries of the scientist. It is just the production cost of the satellite and launch vehicle. Hence your angry @ is meaningless.
3. Hence, still I am strongly raising my flag towards the low-cost of the project and it is for sure a great achievement based on cost too - There is no second opinion in it.
4. Don't try to generalise anybody by knowing little / without knowing anything about them ("bloggers like you"). Its NOT a good attitude for a researcher.

L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

1. I am sure you will agree that the cost of technology is much higher than the cost of the raw material so for example iron ore is cheaper than a car body.

2. Did the iron ore magically turn into a car body? No. First there was a technology cost associated with the machinery used in turning iron ore into car body. Secondly there was manpower cost too for the people who worked on doing it.

3. But even the technology cost of the machinery used is mostly the manpower cost. It didnt turn itself into machinery by magic.

4. Similarly lets now come to the software costs. Chandrayaan just beams back images to earth. Some software has to be used to create the 3-D pictures. A lot of the software on board also was written by people. Obviously the software cost cannot be zero or just the cost of the computer.

5. When an IT company does the costing for its software, all of that cost is the people cost.

6. Most man made things that we see around us a car, a mobile phone have the price tags they have because of the intellectual property in them.

7. As mass manufacturing say in the case of tv sets happens this intellectual cost gets amortized and the product gets commoditized

8. A rocket is still not commoditized. Maybe an aeroplane to some extent because there are so many of them but not a rocket.

9. The cost of the Chandrayaan is not a figure out of the hat. It includes intellectual property cost which forms the major component. And what has happened in this case is that this intellectual property has come very cheap for ISRO. That is the only reason they have been able to achieve this price.

10. I am sorry for the generalization about "bloggers like you" Still I feel very strongly about this. We have grossly underpaid and under-recognized our scientists and now want to bask in their glory.

சரவணகார்த்திகேயன் சி. said...

@ L Venkata Subramaniam

Still, I don't understand why are you confusing the raw cost of the project with the the salary to human resource involved in it. My argument here is only about the cost of making it and not with the people who makes it.

If you want me to explain in your style, here it is : A paatti is making a vadai, the raw cost of making vadai is sum of the amount spent to buy the mash, salt, other ingredients, oil, vessel, fuel, matchbox, and stove. The labour cost of the paatti is NOT included here. only the product cost of vadai.

Similarly, what the government of India and ISRO is unveiling as 400 crores is NOT inclusive of the man power cost. I am agreeing that the salary given to the people is low compared with world-wide scientists. But again, that is NOT a part of my proud towards its low cost (as that low cost is NOT inclusive of this salary)

The reason which I feel proud of the low cost is simply that the other nations like US, Russia who made similar kind of equipments earlier, end up with high cost but we did the same thing in a very low cost comparatively.

The comparison is only for the cost of the product. The question about the cost paid to the scientists is a separate topic as it depends on a lot of political and socio-economic reasons of a growing nation. That discussion needs to be done separately.

Hence, Your explanation of making a car and all those software stuff is in no-way relevant to this topic and I feel it as an unnecessary explanation. Anyway, let me thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain my stand to all who may have similar viewpoint as yours.

சரவணகார்த்திகேயன் சி. said...

Simply I still feel proud about the low production cost of the project but at the same time, feels bad about the low salary offered to the human resource involved.

L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

Vadai is a commodity. Every paati, thatha and even petan and peti can make it. That is why the cost of making it is not included in its cost.

In the case of Chandrayaan, do you know why there are only 4 countries that have a flag on the moon? It is not because the others dont want their flag there. It is because they cannot put it there. You can give them the fuel and the raw materials or even a rocket and they still wont be able to put a satellite in moon's orbit and still not be able to put their flag on the moon. And all countries guard the knowhow as something very precious.

In the case of high technology it is the cost of research that adds value to a product. And all of this research value is human intellectual value. It is not the cost of fuel or the nuts and bolts. Give the raw materials to someone and unless he has the skills he cant put it on the moon. And the money is for these precise skills. Remember you cannot get chandrayaan off the shelf. By claiming that the cost is not inclusive of manpower cost you are claiming that give me fuel and other components and they will magically come together.

A large part of the cost (386 Crores) is the money for the skills. By most estimates even given by ISRO scientists, if we had been paying reasonable salaries (equal to what IT industry pays which is about 1:5 of US salaries)to the people working on the moon mission, the cost of it would have been at least 2-2.5 times more. Which is comparable to the Chinese mission. It is true our scientists innovated and cut costs wherever possible, but salaries contributed a major chunk of the savings.

If you are more interested in this topic please read:

Title: The Economics Of India’s Space Programme: An Exploratory Analysis
Author: U. Sankar

சரவணகார்த்திகேயன் சி. said...

@ L Venkata Subramaniam

Thanks for the information. Let me try to get the book to understand what you have mentioned about that cost split-up (as still I am unconvinced).
Any way, I feel sorry if have gone wrong somewhere in my blog or comments (both on information and ethics).
Again Thanks a lot for a very healthy and interesting discussion. Hope to see you more in my blog in future too.

L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

you know people dont comment as much as they should on blogs. I enjoyed the discussion with you and learnt a lot from it. You have a very informative blog.

Anyway here is a nice cartoon