India set for mission to moon

India's unmanned mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1 is all set for launch in April 2008.

The ground infrastructure for the mission is being set up by Indian Space Research Organisation, (ISRO), in the rural outskirts of Bangalore. And now, installation of a giant antenna is complete and it is all set to begin performance tests.

It would seem to be an unlikely place from which to provide tracking and command support for India's first mission to the moon. But the area around Byalalu village was ideal in many ways for the setting up of the country's first Deep Space Network Station.

''Bangalore is already congested with too many mobile towers and telecommunication networks. We cannot afford to in that midst to have any sensitive installation in terms of radio frequencies. Barriers that you see around, hillocks that really protect our campus, with that we have physical barriers for the noise that intrudes into our system,'' said SK Shivakumar, Director, ISTRAC, ISRO.

''Now, three years after deciding that this was the spot, a 32 metre diameter antenna has been installed. This portion of the project will cost Rs 100 crore out of Chandrayaan's total project cost of 386 crores - and is the work of several agencies. The antenna is now ready to undergo performance tests for its important tasks.''

''It provides two way communication with the satellite. It enables reception of downlink signals, what we call telemetry signals coming from the satellite - that will tell us all about the health of the satellite,'' said Shivakumar.

''Also we should talk to the satellite because many of the signals are switchable from ground, so we need to switch a system on or off, all these telecommand operations where you order a satellite to do certain things from ground - these are also helped by the same antenna. And also we do the tracking operations,'' he added.

The Deep Space Network will take care of not just Chandrayaan-1 but future deep space missions as well, for both India and other countries.

This rough, rural area outside Bangalore is part of a natural crater. And that makes it an ideal location for that giant antenna which has a diameter of 32 metres. And that great big antenna actually marks a giant leap forward for India's very first mission to the moon.

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