The Indian tricolour marked its presence on the moon on Friday night after having flown 3,86,000km from the earth. The timing of this proud moment had been specially designed to coincide with Children's Day.
The United States, the former Soviet Union and the European Space Agency comprising 17 countries already have their flags on the moon. The Indian tricolour is painted on all sides of the 29-kg Moon Impact Probe which is attached to the main orbiting spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1, which was launched on October 22.
The inclusion of the MIP as part of the Chandrayaan mission came at the suggestion of former President A P J Abdul Kalam, a former rocket scientist, during the International Lunar Exploration Working Group conference held at Udaipur in November 2004.
The Indian tricolour had been hoisted on Mount Everest and Antarctica. And now it is on the moon.
During its flight, its video camera took pictures of the Moon, the spectrometer began its analysis and the altitude meter did what is known as a ranging. While approaching the Moon, it slowed down slightly, then spun. While spinning, its three instruments went into action. When it was 5 km above the Moon’s surface, the altimeter did the ‘ranging of the Moon’. ‘‘All this while the atmosphere was pretty tense in the mission control room,’’ said a scientist.
The flight of the MIP on Friday is a forerunner to the second Indian moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, which will carry a Russian rover and a lander slated for lift-off between 2010 and 2012.
Images of the Moon's surface taken by the MIP as it approached the lunar surface. Courtesy ISRO