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India ready to launch moon probe
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Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced on Thursday that it is all set to launch the country's first unmanned spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 to the moon, according to the Indian Express on Friday.


Soyuz space crew members from left: US space tourist Richard Garriott, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov, and US astronaut Michael Fincke pose before the final test in a mock-up of a Soyuz TMA space craft in Star City outside Moscow on Friday. Fincke, Lonchakov and Garriott are scheduled to start for the International Space Station on Oct 12. [AP]  

The spacecraft is scheduled for launch on October 22, five years after the Indian government cleared the project. It will make an entry into the lunar atmosphere for a two-year mission.

It will be loaded with six Indian and five foreign scientific instruments.

It has overcome a major hurdle in the form of extreme temperature tests over the past fortnight. Now its launch is dependent on weather factors, said ISRO moon mission director Annadurai.

"Weather is a key issue. We are watching for forecasts closer to the tentative launch dates," Annadurai said. Chandrayaan-1 would take approximately eight days to course the nearly 386,000 km to get to its final orbit - 100 km from the moon.

If weather plays spoilsport and the late October launch is postponed we would have to wait for dates in November or December when the trajectories of the moon and Chandrayaan-1 will intersect again, he said.

Chandrayaan mission is seen as major step in acknowledging India's existence in space.

NASA OKs rocket design

In the US, NASA's new moon rocket passed a crucial design milestone late Wednesday.

Senior NASA management unanimously approved the preliminary design review of the planned Ares I rocket that would launch astronauts into space by 2015 and back to the moon by 2020. Next year there will be another narrowly focused "delta" preliminary design review for one pending engineering problem: too much shaking after launch.

This is the first preliminary design review approval for a rocket to carry astronauts since 1973, when the space shuttle passed the same stage, said Steve Cook, NASA's Ares projects manager. These reviews are to make sure that the broad design, plans and software mesh properly and pass early safety questions. A more detailed test, a critical design review, is scheduled for March 2011.

Most of the rocket is not built yet.

About 10 percent of the problems that engineers brought up are still to be resolved but do not require separate reviews, including noise problems and questions whether the rocket could fly through rough weather, especially lightning, Cook said. NASA also is looking at potential problems that could come when the lower part of the rocket separates.

One issue raised was that engineers were able to shrink the bottom part of the rocket by 8 inches, and they have to make sure that the launch platform design is also shrunk by that much. It is a matter mostly of paperwork, Cook said.

The Orion crew capsule, which will sit on top of the Ares I, will have its preliminary design review in late 2009.

NASA is spending about $3 billion a year on the return-to-the moon program.

(Xinhua/Agencies September 20, 2008)


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