Lunarcraft loses contact, India may abort moon mission (Second Lead)August 29th, 2009 - 10:24 pm ICT by IANS
Bangalore, Aug 29 (IANS) India may have to abort its first moon mission after attempts Saturday to restore radio contact with its lunarcraft Chandrayaan-1 proved futile, a senior space official said.
“Chandrayaan mission is as good as lost. Attempts to restore its communication link that snapped in the wee hours (01:30 IST) have failed,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) director S. Satish told IANS here.
The spacecraft, orbiting the moon at a distance of 200 km, last transmitted data to the space agency’s Deep Space Network (DSN), 40 km from Bangalore, at 00:25 IST Saturday.
The 514 kg Chandrayaan orbits the moon every 100 minutes.
Its antenna stopped working due to a sudden failure of the communication systems in the spacecraft. There is no spare antenna to restore the contact.
“We may have to abandon the spacecraft if we are unable to establish radio contact with it again. It will continue to be in the lunar orbit for some time. If its orbiting is not controlled, it may crash anytime on the lunar surface,” Satish said.
Scientists are analysing the data at the DSN to check the health of the spacecraft subsystems.
“Communication with the spacecraft has been snapped because DSN is unable to send commands or receive data from it. The development has seriously hampered communication between the spacecraft and the ground station (DSN),” Satish admitted.
The $80 million (Rs.380 crore) Chandrayaan was launched amid much fanfare Oct 22, 2008 from ISRO’s spaceport Sriharikota, about 90 km northeast of Chennai, on board the 316-tonne polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV-CII), with 11 scientific payloads, including the moon impact probe that was landed on the lunar surface Nov 14.
During its 10-month rendezvous with the earth’s only natural satellite, the lunarcraft completed 3,400 orbits in 312 days and transmitted volumes of data from sophisticated scientific instruments such as terrain mapping camera, hyper-spectral imager and moon mineralogy mapper.
“The spacecraft met most (90-95 percent) of the scientific objectives during the mission,” ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said July 17 after admitting that a critical star sensor had burnt due to excessive solar radiation in April and May while orbiting the moon at a distance of 100 km.
The star sensor used to determine the orientation of the spacecraft towards the lunar surface. The incident forced the space agency to raise the spacecraft’s orbit to 200 km May 19.
Chandrayaan’s high-resolution cameras relayed over 70,000 digital images of the lunar surface, providing breathtaking views of mountains and craters, including those in the permanently shadowed area of the moon’s polar region.
Of the 11 scientific instruments or payloads, five are Indian. Of the other six, three are from the European Space Agency (ESA), two from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US and one from Bulgaria.
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Tags: chandrayaan, deep space network, first moon, indian space research, indian space research organisation, isro, launch vehicle, lunar orbit, lunar surface, mapping camera, moon mission, natural satellite, orbits, polar satellite, radio contact, space official, spacecraft subsystems, spare antenna, sriharikota, terrain mapping