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India’s first moon mission lost in space

ISRO loses radio contact with Chandrayaan-1,says chances of re-establishing contact “remote” ....

Written by Johnson TA | Bangalore |
August 30, 2009 4:28:29 am

India’s first mission to the moon,Chandrayaan-I,may have had a quiet sign off in space with the Indian Space Research Organisation reporting a loss of radio contact with the spacecraft since early Saturday morning.

ISRO officials said the chances of re-establishing contact with the spacecraft,launched last October,some 312 days ago,as being “somewhat remote”.

“With communication totally lost,there is no transmission or receipt of signals between Chandrayaan-I and ground control stations,” ISRO spokesperson S. Satish said.

“Radio contact with Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was abruptly lost at 0130 hrs (IST) on August 29,2009. The Deep Space Network at Byalalu near Bangalore received the data from Chandrayaan-I during the previous orbit up to 0025 hrs (IST),” ISRO said on Saturday.

ISRO officials said detailed analysis of data received,prior to the loss of radio contact,on health parameters of the spacecraft is currently on to understand what went wrong and whether the spacecraft can be salvaged.

Incidentally,ISRO was scheduled to hold a meeting of Indian and foreign participants in the Chandrayaan-I mission in September to evaluate the mission and decide its future.

The Rs 380-crore moon mission launched on October 22 last year has completed 3,400 orbits around the moon and landed an impact probe on the moon’s surface on November 14.

Though partially incapacitated by the failure of one set of orientation devices in April this year,Chandrayaan-I has completed all mission objectives,ISRO said.

The spacecraft’s initial target was to spend a year in a 100-km distance orbit from the moon. Damages to the star sensor orientation devices—from suspected radiation from the sun—forced ISRO to pull Chandrayaan-1 into a 200 km orbit in May this year. Since May,the spacecraft has been operating in the alternate gyroscope mode to maintain its orientation. The spacecraft also suffered a failure to a power management unit and a backup was called into action.

The spacecraft functions have however been stable and ISRO reported on August 21 that it had conducted joint experiments with NASA to search for ice near the North Pole of the moon. NASA used its two-month-old Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) for the tandem experiment with Chandrayaan-1. The two spacecraft waited for a moment when they passed each other in close proximity on August 21 to coordinate instruments on board to collect data from the moon,ISRO said.

“Mission operations are being carried out satisfactorily. Other than the failure of the star sensor and one of the bus management units,health of the spacecraft is normal,” ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said in July.

He had admitted that it was not necessary for the spacecraft to spend a whole year in space since mission objectives had been realised. The objectives of the mission were to realise the complex spacecraft with 11 scientific instruments,to launch the spacecraft and place it in a circular orbit around the moon,to place the Indian tricolor on the moon,to carry out the imaging operation of the lunar surface and collect data and to realize the deep space tracking network,Nair said.

While 95 per cent of experiments involving the Chandrayaan have been completed ISRO was hoping to fill a gap in data collection with regard to X-Ray experiments in months before the anniversary of the launch of the mission.

The Chandrayaan-1 mission has apart from improving India’s standing as a commercial space faring nation provided the ground to figure out areas for improvement for the more sophisticated Chandrayaan-2 mission that ISRO hopes to launch by 2013.

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