The Indian space programme achieved a historic milestone on 14 November 2008 with the placing of the Indian tricolour on the moon's surface on the occasion of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's birthday. ISRO said the Moon Impact Probe (MIP), one of the 11 payloads of Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, successfully hit the lunar surface today at 20:31 hrs (8:31 pm) IST.
The Indian space programme was initiated in 1962 by the then prime minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Amongst a series of historic firsts, the landing also makes the MIP the first Indian built object to reach the surface of the moon.
According to ISRO, the MIP came down near the moon's south polar region. The Indian space agency said that the box-shaped MIP carried three instruments – a video imaging system, a radar altimeter and a mass spectrometer.
While the video imaging system was intended to take pictures of the moon's surface as the MIP approached it, the radar altimeter was included to measure the rate of descent of the probe to the lunar surface. The agency said such data would be necessary for future lunar soft landing missions.
The mass spectrometer was for studying the extremely thin lunar atmosphere.
MIP's 25 minute journey to the lunar surface began with its separation from Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft at 20:06 hrs (8:06 pm) IST. This was followed by a series of automatic operations that began with the firing of its spin-up rockets after achieving a safe distance of separation from Chandrayaan-1.
Later, the probe slowed down with the firing of its retro rocket and started its rapid descent towards the moon's surface.
Information from its instruments was radioed to Chandrayaan-1 by the MIP. The spacecraft recorded the information in its onboard memory for a later readout, the agency said.
Finally, the probe had a hard landing on the lunar surface that terminated its functioning.
The hard landing also successfully concluded the country's first mission to dispatch a probe to the moon's surface from a spacecraft orbiting the moon. Data from this sub-mission will be of immense importance when ISRO sends Chandrayaan-2 to the moon a few years from now.
Meanwhile, with the dispatch of the MIP to the moon's surface and the turning on of two of Chandrayaan-1's payloads – Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) and Radiation Dose Monitor (RADOM) – on its journey to moon, it is now time to activate the remaining eight payloads of the spacecraft in the coming days.
Chandrayaan-1 was successfully launched on the PSLV-C11 rocket on 22 October 2008 from India's spaceport at Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (Sriharikota) into its intended initial elliptical orbit around the earth. Following this, the spacecraft's orbit was raised in steps and it was made to pass near the moon by repeatedly firing its 440 Newton liquid engine.
After Chandrayaan-1's entry into its planned lunar orbit on 8 November 2008, the orbital height was reduced in steps to its intended operational altitude of 100 km from the lunar surface.
Since its launch, the health and orbit of Chandrayaan-1 is being continuously monitored from the Spacecraft Control Centre of ISRO's Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore with critical support from antennas of Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu. IDSN antennas have also received the images and scientific information gathered by TMC, RADOM, and more recently, by the MIP.