Monday, November 15, 2010

Flying with Chang'e-2

        On Monday night just before I switched off, I accessed the US Planetary Society blog and guess what happened?  It seemed as though I was flying near the moon with the unmanned Chinese mooncraft, Chang'e-2 which was launched on October 1,2010. This was made possible thanks to Emily Lakdawalla, a planetary geologist, who writes a regular interesting and informative blog in the Planetary Society website.

        Emily managed to get videos of the various critical stages of the Chang'e-2 mission and insert it in her blog. I saw them a number of times and it was exciting and thrilling especially the one when the spacecraft flew just 15 kms above the lunar surface. I have saved all the five videos and be sure I will be seeing them regularly as I have a passion for space exploration. In short I am a space buff! I must also thank my good friend Pradeep Mohandas, secretary of the India chapter of the Moon Society, for referring me to the videos. He has always been of great help.

       Just to reproduce Emily's blog, she writes: ``I would not believe these videos when I first saw them; five views from engineering cameras of important events in the Chang'e-2 spacecraft's journey to the moon. It's a thrill to see actual human-built artifacts out there in space and I do not believe I have ever seen actual video of such key mission events on robotic missions, except from rocket-mounted cameras before.''

       ``The videos relate to the solar panel deployment, Chang'e-2 entering lunar orbit, the spacecraft's first orbit trim manouvres, the second orbit trim manouvres and the 15-km flight over the moon,'' she writes.

       I strongly recommend these videos to space crazy guys like me!  I also accessed the original video source and saw them again. Apart from them being thrilling and exciting, they are also educative as they provide clear and precise details of the moon's surface.

       Thank U Emily.

       Yes, Isro has hosted the video of Chandrayaan's Terrain Mapping Camera flying over the moon. I like it and it has been praised by a number of people. But, I really wonder why it has not yet put the video of the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) zooming towards the moon even after two years. Chandrayaan-1 was launched on October 22,2008 and the MIP flight was on November 14,2008.

       I have a dvd of the Chandrayaan-1 mission called ``The Moon Within Reach--the Chandrayaan-1 saga continuos.''  This dvd has the sequence of the MIP heading towards the moon. But, how many can see it? Not many. The reason-- because of some outdated policy the public do not have an access to this dvd. I managed to obtain it thanks to a good friend who has contacts with a certain division of Isro.

       Though it is not a great video, I still think it should be available in the open market. Does anyone disagree with me? 


        Talking about Chinese space programme, a 32-year-old transport pilot, Wang Yaping, is expected to be China's first woman taikonaut. She is with the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

        The Chinese media had mentioned Wang as one of the five pilots from the province of Shandong and was a part of the 15 women candidates. Currently, she is undergoing training at the Chinese astronaut training centre, near Beijing, with another woman pilot.

         Though the date of her first flight is a matter of speculation, it is stated that she will fly in the Shenzhou-10 mission, which will dock with the Tiangong-1 orbital module in 2012. Shenzhou-10 is a planned manned spaceflight of China's Shenzhou programme. It will have a crew of three astronauts.

         China started training woman astronauts in 2005. When the announcement was first made, there were 200,000 applications, of which 30 were short listed.

         If Wang makes it, she will join the ranks of Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.

         We look forward to the miission.

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