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Accord signed for moon mission


REACHING FOR THE MOON: ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair and NASA Administrator Michael Griffin greet each other after signing a memorandum of understanding in Bangalore on Tuesday. — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

BANGALORE: In a milestone in space cooperation between New Delhi and Washington, India’s unmanned moon mission Chandrayaan-1 will have on board two U.S. payloads. The mission is slated for launch by early 2008.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman G. Madhavan Nair and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Michael Griffin on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding in this regard.

The payloads are a Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (mini SAR) that will map the cold regions and scan for ice deposits and a Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3).

The Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, under funding from the NASA, developed the mini SAR. Brown University and the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built the M3.

Two-year mission

Mr. Griffin said:

“The two-year mission would map the lunar surface and investigate its properties that would advance knowledge about the moon’s history and evolution, besides informing future exploration decisions by characterising the content of the lunar soil.

“The mission you will conduct some 40 years after humans saw the moon up close for the first time will greatly advance our understanding of our closest neighbour in space and represents a very impressive technical achievement.”

The NASA chief said: “I understand that you are undertaking this mission to upgrade India’s technological capability and provide challenging opportunities for planetary research for the younger generation.”

ISRO’s Physical Research Laboratory Director V.N. Goswami said the mission’s main objective was to investigate the mineral and chemical distribution on the lunar surface. “Our mission will, for the first time, explore the topography of the moon. It is important to know, as once a manned mission is there, we should know where humans should go.”

There were many theories on the moon, mainly due to the huge gap after the 1969 Apollo mission. Space cooperation between the two countries dates back to 1963 when Indian atmospheric experiments were carried out on a U.S. rocket. However, the relations became strained after India’s nuclear testing in 1998.

Washington imposed sanctions on India, resulting in a freeze on exchanges in nuclear and other high-tech sectors.

Chandrayaan-1 will also carry five Indian instruments, along with three developed by the European Space Agency and one from the Bulgarian Space Laboratory.

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