After Loss of Lunar Orbiter, India Looks to Mars Mission

India Moon Mission
Artist concept of Chandrayaan-1 orbiting the moon. Credit: ISRO

After giving up on re-establishing contact with the Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman G. Madhavan Nair announced the space agency hopes to launch its first mission to Mars sometime between 2013 and 2015. Nair said the termination of Chandrayaan-1, although sad, is not a setback and India will move ahead with its plans for the Chandrayaan-2 mission to land an unmanned rover on the moon’s surface to prospect for chemicals, and in four to six years launch a robotic mission to Mars.

“We have given a call for proposal to different scientific communities,” Nair told reporters. “Depending on the type of experiments they propose, we will be able to plan the mission. The mission is at conceptual stage and will be taken up after Chandrayaan-2.”

On the decision to quickly pull the plug on Chandrayaan-1, Nair said, “There was no possibility of retrieving it. (But) it was a great success. We could collect a large volume of data, including more than 70,000 images of the moon. In that sense, 95 percent of the objective was completed.”

Contact with Chandrayaan-1 may have been lost because its antenna rotated out of direct contact with Earth, ISRO officials said. Earlier this year, the spacecraft lost both its primary and back-up star sensors, which use the positions of stars to orient the spacecraft.

The loss of Chandrayaan-1 comes less than a week after the spacecraft’s orbit was adjusted to team up with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter for a Bi-static radar experiment. During the maneuver, Chandrayaan-1 fired its radar beam into Erlanger Crater on the moon’s north pole. Both spacecraft listened for echoes that might indicate the presence of water ice – a precious resource for future lunar explorers. The results of that experiment have not yet been released.

Chandrayaan-1 craft was designed to orbit the moon for two years, but lasted 315 days. It will take about 1,000 days until it crashes to the lunar surface and is being tracked by the U.S. and Russia, ISRO said.

The Chandrayaan I had 11 payloads, including a terrain-mapping camera designed to create a three-dimensional atlas of the moon. It is also carrying mapping instruments for the European Space Agency, radiation-measuring equipment for the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and two devices for NASA, including the radar instrument to assess mineral composition and look for ice deposits. India launched its first rocket in 1963 and first satellite in 1975. The country’s satellite program is one of the largest communication systems in the world.

Sources: New Scientist, Xinhuanet

Radio Contact Lost With Chandrayaan-1

Artists impress of Chandrayaan-1 at the moon. Credit: ISRO

India’s lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-1 lost contact with ISRO’s ground station early on August 29. “We are not able to establish contact with the spacecraft. We are not getting the data, we are not able to send commands,” an ISRO official told the Press Trust of India. “In simple terms, the spacecraft has become dumb. It can’t speak.” The 11 scientific payloads onboard the orbiter had been operating normally, and the spacecraft was sending data during a planned sequence to its ground station when contact was lost. Officials are now analyzing data obtained, hoping to find any indications of what could have happened.

Chandrayaan 1 and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter teamed up on August 20 to perform a bi-static radar experiment, and although no results have been released yet, the data had been successfully returned from the test.

Chandrayaan-1 was launched October 22, 2008, reaching the moon in early November. It has made over 3,000 orbits and its 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.

The Times Now website is reporting that the mission is over, with a quote from Project Director of the Chandrayaan-1 mission, M Annadurai: “The mission is definitely over. We have lost contact with the spacecraft.”

He added “It has done its job technically…100 per cent. Scientifically also, it has done almost 90-95 percent of its job.”

But as of this writing it has only been about 18 hours since contact was lost. We’ll keep you posted on further news on Chandrayaan-1

Sources: PTI , Times Now

Hat tip to Svetoslav Alexandrov

Chandrayaan’s M3 Looks Back At Earth

This false-color image of Earth was taken from 200 kilometers (124 miles) above the lunar surface was taken by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, one of two NASA instruments onboard the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL/Brown

It’s a little fuzzy, but considering the camera was meant to capture the surface of the Moon from 200 kilometers (124 miles) away rather than Earth at 360,000 km (224,000 miles), it’s not bad. This image was taken by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3 – M Cubed), on board the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft orbiting the Moon. Australia is visible in the lower center of the image. The image is presented as a false-color composite with oceans a dark blue, clouds white, and vegetation an enhanced green. The image data were acquired on July 22, 2009.

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument is a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer designed to provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution. Scientists will use this information to answer questions about the moon’s origin and development and the evolution of terrestrial planets in the early solar system. Future astronauts will use it to locate resources, possibly including water, that can support exploration of the moon and beyond.

Taking an image of Earth, well, that’s just showing off!

Source: JPL

Chandrayaan-1 Rescued from Failure

India Moon Mission
Artist concept of Chandrayaan-1 orbiting the moon. Credit: ISRO

The Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft, India’s moon orbiting satellite was almost lost earlier this year, Indian Space Research Organization revealed, as the star tracking system overheated and malfunctioned. The system helps determine and maintain the spacecraft’s orientation. Engineers were able to patch in the gyroscopes and another instrument to help maneuver the spacecraft, but they are not sure how long this jury-rigged system will work. At this point, determining the spacecraft’s future might be difficult, and differing statements from various officials reflect that.

“We are not sure how long we will be able to sustain it. The life of Chandrayaan-I designed for two years may be reduced,” said ISRO spokesman S. Satish.

ISRO chief Madhavan Nair said the star tracking system cannot be recovered, but he dismissed suggestions that the sensor’s failure might reduce the life span of the spacecraft.

“The life (of the spacecraft) is not dependent on this instrument. This instrument is used only for orientation of the spacecraft,” he said. “The sensor cannot be recovered at this stage and we hope that the remaining part of this mission will be completed.”
Chandrayaan-1's first picture of the moon.  Credit:  ISRO

Chandrayaan-1 launched in October 2008 and suffered from overheating shortly after it began operations in lunar orbit in November, but the ISRO was able to change the spacecraft’s orientation and cut down on the amount of time the instruments were used to compensate.

In May 2009, however, officials unexpectedly raised the orbit of the spacecraft. At that time officials said they had completed mission objectives from 100 km above the moon and raised the height of the spacecraft to 200 km to enable imaging lunar surface with a wider swath. But reports say that May is when the star tracker system malfunctioned, as well.

Nair said the star sensor is suspected to have failed because of “excessive radiation” from the Sun. He said gyroscopes are not susceptible for the kind of radiation that the sensor was subjected to. “So, we hope it will survive the remaining mission duration”.

He added more than 90 percent of the two-year mission’s objectives have already been achieved.

ISRO Scientists hope the Chandrayaan project will boost India’s capacity to build more efficient rockets and satellites, especially through miniaturization, and open research avenues for young Indian scientists. India plans to follow the Chandrayaan, which means “moon craft” in Sanskrit, by landing a rover on the moon in 2011.

Source: The Hindu

Make Room at the Moon


Lunar orbit is getting to be a busy place, with several different countries sending spacecraft to the moon. Currently orbiting the Moon are Japan’s Kaguya (also known as SELENE) spacecraft, which has been sending back 3-D movies of the lunar surface, and China’s Chang-e 1, which will gather information on the Moon’s chemical composition with its various cameras, spectrometers and other scientific equipment. In addition, two new missions to the moon will launch this year: India’s Chandrayaan-1 and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Chandrayaan, which means “journey to the moon” in Hindi, will study the moon at many wavelengths, from X-ray, visible and near-infrared to microwave. It will orbit the moon at just 100 km above the surface. The mission is scheduled to launch on April 9.

“The low orbit will give us really high resolution data,” says Detlef Koschny, Chandrayaan project scientist. The principal mission objective is to map the Moon’s surface in unprecedented detail. Current lunar maps show detail from 30 – 100 meters across. Chandrayaan will produce maps with a resolution of between 5 and 10 meters across the whole surface of the moon.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is collaborating with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for the Chandrayaan-1 mission. A Compact Imaging X-ray Spectrometer will produce x-ray spectroscopic mapping of the moon, and the Infrared Spectrometer will observe the Moon’s chemical composition. Another ESA instrument is the Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyzer, which will study the interaction between electrically charged particles from the solar wind and Moon’s surface.

Eight other instruments complete the suite of science instruments, including a 29-kg landing probe which will be dropped onto the Moon’s surface at the beginning of the mission to conduct investigations.

Meanwhile, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is currently undergoing testing at Goddard Spaceflight Center to get ready for its launch on October 28 of this year. LRO will spend at least a year mapping the surface of the moon. Data from the orbiter will help NASA select safe landing sites for astronauts, identify lunar resources and study how the moon’s environment will affect humans.

Engineers at Goddard are building the orbiter and testing spacecraft components to ready them for the harsh environment of space. After a component or entire subsystem is qualified, it is integrated into the LRO spacecraft. The core suite of avionics for the orbiter is assembled and undergoing system tests.

“This is a major milestone for the mission,” said Craig Tooley, LRO project manager at Goddard. “Our team has been working nearly around the clock to get us to this point. Reaching this milestone keeps us on the path to sending LRO to the moon later this year.”

Once fully integrated, the spacecraft will ship to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida in August in preparation for launch. The orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket. LCROSS will study the poles of the moon to confirm the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed craters. The trip to the moon for the spacecraft will take approximately four days. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter initially will enter an elliptical orbit, also called the commissioning orbit. Once moved into its final orbit, a circular polar orbit approximately 31 miles above the moon, the spacecraft’s instruments will map the lunar surface.

Original News Sources: Chandrayaan Press Release, LRO press release