Chandrayaan-1 is due to launch on October 22 at 00:58 UTC (that's October 21 at 17:58 Pacific time; click here for a table of other cities). I am deeply grateful to the British Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) for actually posting the launch time -- it's the first time I'd seen it online (though I did eventually find slightly different launch times posted in some Indian news stories).
For those of you who live in the UK, STFC is hosting a live launch event, kicking off just after midnight local time; and I'm sure they'll be showing this neato animation of the spacecraft using its X-ray camera, C1XS, to map the abundance of magnesium, aluminum, and silicon across the lunar surface. It was produced for them by Doug Ellison, whose day job involves 3D animation, of inner space rather than outer space.
This is a still from an animation showing how the C1XS X-ray camera on India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft will use solar X-rays to map the lunar surface. A high-definition version of the animation is available here (Quicktime format, 82.1 MB). Other formats are available here.
C1XS operates by measuring the X-rays emitted by the lunar surface. Each element absorbs solar X-rays of fixed wavelength, then re-emits X-rays of a different wavelength; by measuring the wavelength and abundance of solar X-rays, and the wavelength and abundance of X-rays emitted from the lunar surface, C1XS will map the distribution of magnesium, silicon, and aluminum. If there are lots of solar X-rays around (which happens when there is a solar flare), then C1XS will be able to detect the presence of iron, titanium, and calcium.
I don't have any further information on the launch preparations; I did come across one tiny little image of the launch vehicle, taken on October 11. I found a larger version of the same photo (credited differently) here.
Chandrayaan-1 on the launch pad
On October 11, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle that will send Chandrayaan-1 to lunar orbit stands fully assembled on the mobile launch pedestal in the Vehicle Assembly Building of the second launch pad at Sriharikota.
And The Hindu reports that the 32-meter deep-space antenna that India needed to build to support its first spacecraft to venture beyond Earth orbit was inagurated today by the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization. The antenna is situated in Byalalu, 40 kilometers away from the tech center of Bangalore. The article says that the antenna is currently configured to operate in the S and X bands, and can be upgraded in the future to support shorter-wavelength Ka band radio.
Comments posted to the Indian media stories about the upcoming launch reveal that there is quite an active internal debate in India over whether the government should be spending funds on science missions when India is still a developing nation with great needs in the development of basic infrastructure -- roads, communications, power, and education, feeding, and health care for its vast poor. My instinct is that it's not a zero-sum game -- that by investing in projects that make India a technological peer with the United States and Europe (and perhaps more importantly for India, China), there will be a worthwhile return in the form of greater trade, greater investment, a more educated and more productive work force, and so on. But I'm no economist so I can't say. In the event, there is clearly the will to proceed out into space among India's leaders, as India is now poised to join the elite club of planet-hopping nations.
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