The Chandrayaan I countdown begins

As the launch of Chandrayaan-I, India’s first mission to the moon, entered its final hours, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota was buzzing with activity and excitement.The countdown — reduced from 52 to 49 hours since activities ahead of it were completed three hours in advance — began at 5.22 on Monday morning. This countdown period will entail wide-ranging synchronised activities during which a large number of scientists will perform different sets of well-rehearsed tasks, leading to the historic launch on Wednesday at 6.20 in the morning. “This is the most exciting phase. Until the time the satellite is launched successfully, I think hardly anyone will be able to sleep. There are a number of tasks that have to be completed very carefully and everyone is busy with their jobs,” said Dr M Y S Prasad, associate director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The most important among these tasks is to fill liquid propellants and pressurised gas in the second and fourth stage engines of PSLV-C11, the launch vehicle for Chandrayaan. This is expected to consume more than 30 hours of the countdown period.
“As of now, everything has gone on smoothly, exactly as planned. There have been no hiccups and no anxious moments,” Prasad assured. Apart from filling up the engines with liquid propellants, scientists will also be busy with a few launch tests that need to be done during the countdown period. The testing of all the 11 payloads being carried by Chandrayaan has already been completed successfully.
Chandrayaan-I, India’s boldest and most ambitious scientific endeavour till date, is designed to carry out a number of experiments aimed at increasing humankind’s knowledge of the moon. Among the tasks that Chandrayaan-I is attempting to do for the first time ever is to map a high-resolution three-dimensional topography of the moon’s entire surface. It will also try to determine the mineral composition of moon’s surface through spectroscopic data and attempt to confirm the presence of water ice in the polar regions.

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