The Chandrayan-1 mission, announced by the Prime Minister yesterday (August 15, 2003) during his Independence Day address to the nation, represents India’s foray into a planetary exploration era in the coming decades. Today, India is confident of undertaking a complex space mission because of its indigenously developed launch vehicle and spacecraft capabilities. This mission will provide a unique opportunity for frontier scientific research. Chandrayan-1 is expected to be the forerunner of more ambitious planetary missions in the years to come, including landing robots on the moon and visits by Indian spacecraft to other planets in the solar system.

The Chandrayan-1 mission envisages placing a 525-kg satellite in a polar orbit 100-km above the moon. The satellite will be launched using a modified version of India’s indigenous Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The spacecraft will initially be launched into Geo-synchronous Transfer Orbit, and subsequently manoeuvred into its final lunar orbit using its own propulsion system. The main objectives of Chandrayan-1 include obtaining imagery of the moon’s surface using high-resolution remote sensing instruments in the visible, near infrared, low and high-energy X-ray regions. Furthermore, considering the interest expressed by the international scientific community, a provision has also been made to accommodate instruments from other countries.

The spacecraft is expected to be ready for launch by 2008.