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India has begun assembling the spacecraft for Chandrayan-I, its first unmanned mission to the moon scheduled for 2008, a top space agency said on Wednesday.
“We have begun the integration process for the spacecraft structure and are putting in place the antennae required for tracking data from this month,” S Krishnamurthy, director of publicity for the Indian Space Research Organisation, said from Bangalore.
If Indiaâ€™s Moon project planned for September 2007 is successful, it will be something for everyone to cheer loudly about. The Moon is Earthâ€™s single important natural satellite, and as planetary moons go, it is unusually large in size compared to Earth. Our five-stage PSLV rocket is planned to place a scientific satellite around it. In token political gestures, NASA and the Europeans may provide scientific payloads too.
All Indians need to and can come to know what is involved. A trip to the Moon requires a spacecraft reach an â€œescapeâ€ velocity of some 40,000 km per hour. At a distance of some 324,000 km, the spacecraft escapes Earthâ€™s gravity and comes to a â€œstandstillâ€ or â€œneutralâ€ point, a fictional station on the Earth-Moon axis, still some 32,000 km (or about 19 Moon radii) from the Moon. The Moonâ€™s gravity then gradually takes over, drawing the spacecraft faster and faster towards the Moon, to either land on its surface or go into orbit around it ~ though to avoid a fatal impact crashing into the Moon, the spacecraft may require retrorockets to slow itself down.