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Around the Solar System

ESA Gets Ten Billion Euros Space Exploration

by on Dec.06, 2008, under Around the Solar System

Ministers agree to finance most of the European Space Agency wish list.

Ministers responsible for space exploration from the 18 European Space Agency (ESA) countries plus Canada met last week. They agreed to fund 9.9 billion euros (US$12.7 billion) of the requested 10.4 billion euro ($13.34 billion) budget. The ESA Council meets once every three years to decide funding on a list of proposed projects. The meeting took place in The Hague on 25-26 Nov.

ISS showing Jules Verne ATV (NASA)

ISS showing Jules Verne ATV (NASA)

Afterwards French education minister Valerie Pecresse said, “Investing money in long-term space projects is an appropriate answer to the economic crisis.” ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain said, “These are investments that can help the economy. This is the right time invest in the future.”
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Chandrayaan-1 Begins Moon Mission

by on Oct.14, 2008, under Around the Solar System

India sends its flag to the lunar surface

Chandrayaan-1

Chandrayaan-1

The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-1 has begun its two-year-long science mission. On Nov 15, it sent a 30-kilogram impact-probe crashing to the surface of the Moon. The probe, painted on two sides with the Indian flag, reached the Moon’s surface at 20:34 Indian Standard Time (15:04 GMT).

An ISRO representative told the AFP news agency, “During its descent from Chandrayaan-1, an onboard video camera transmitted lunar pictures to the ISRO command centre.” The probe also sent back data about the Moon’s tenuous atmosphere.

Chandrayaan-1, which roughly translates as “Moon Craft-1,” launched on Oct 22 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh. The one-and-a-half-tonne satellite successfully entered lunar orbit on Nov 8 and is now in polar orbit at a height of 100 kilometres (62 miles).

This is India’s first space mission beyond Earth orbit. It joins Japanese and Chinese spacecraft orbiting the Moon. The event generated considerable national pride among Indian’s who see the launch as an indication that their country is one of the space faring nations of the 21st century and that India has arrived as a technologically advanced global power.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed the launch as a milestone in the India’s space program. Saying, “Our scientific community has once again done the country proud and the entire nation salutes them.”

Scientific Instrument Payload

The Chandrayaan-1 mission is to provide detailed maps of the Moon’s surface and composition. Present maps date from the Apollo era. As well as the Moon Impact Probe, it has ten other instruments onboard. The first four listed below are Indian, then two from NASA, three from the European Space Agency (ESA) and one built by Bulgaria. The Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network at Bangalore, will turn on theses instruments over the next few weeks.

Chandrayaan-1 Cutaway

Chandrayaan-1 Cutaway

Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC)

The TMC will produce stereo images of the surface of the moon, creating maps with an elevation resolution of five meters. It will cover the entire lunar surface over the next two years.

Hyper-Spectral Imager (HySI)

The HySI takes images at 64 different wavelengths of light between blue and the near infrared. It has a resolution of 80 meters and will help identify the mineral composition of the surface of the Moon.

Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI)

This instrument is an infrared laser that pulses 10 times per second. By measuring the time it takes for the laser light to be reflected from the surface, the height of surface features can be calculated to within 5 meters.

High Energy X-Ray Spectrometer (HEX)

HEX detects high-energy x-rays from radioactive elements on the lunar surface and from cosmic rays hitting the moon. This will shed light on the composition of the lunar surface and may help locate thick deposits of ice.

Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR)

This instrument provided by NASA will map the both the Moon’s surface and a few meters subsurface using radio waves. It will look for ice deposits.

Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3)

The second instrument provided by NASA is an infrared mapping spectrometer. This can provide a resolution of 70 meters at hundreds of wavelengths of infrared light.

Chandrayaan-1 X-Ray Spectrometer (C1XS)

The C1XS is one of three instruments provided by the European Space Agency. It detects x-ray fluorescence, lower energy x-rays that are emitted when materials are bombarded by high energy x-rays. It will examine the composition of the lunar surface.

Near-Infrared Spectrometer (SIR-2)

SIR-2 looks at sunlight reflected from the lunar surface in the near infrared range. This is a good range for identifying surface minerals.

Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyser (SARA)

SARA will examine the surface of the Moon by analyzing particles blasted from the surface by the solar wind.

Radiation Dose Monitor Experiment (RADOM)

Made by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, RADOM will measure the magnitude and energy range of radiation near the Moon. This is essential information for any future lunar colony.

Chandrayaan-1 is part of unprecedented international interest in the Moon. NASA aims eventually to establish a permanent lunar colony and plans to launch and sustain human exploration of the Moon by 2018. Other nations are unlikely to leave exploration and exploitation of the Moon solely to the USA.

Image credits ISRO

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Sharpest Yet Images of Phobos

by on Jul.30, 2008, under Around the Solar System, Newsflash

bos

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Mars Express closed in on the intriguing Martian moon Phobos at 6:49 CEST on Jul. 23, flying past at 3 km/s, only 93 km from the moon.

The ESA spacecraft’s fly-bys of the moon have returned its most detailed full-disc images ever, also in 3-D, using the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board.

Image credit: ESA

Read more on ESA Website…

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