After Loss of Lunar Orbiter, India Looks to Mars Mission

India Moon Mission

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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

Launch Images from LRO/LCROSS Successfull Liftoff


Liftoff! A patient launch control team waited out stormy weather on Thursday, and finally were able to give a green light for the last launch opportunity of the day for the Atlas rocket carrying the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). The duo lifted off at 21:42 pm GMT (5:32 pm EDT), climbing through some impressive looking clouds and quickly heading to space. For more information about the missions, see our LRO/LCROSS preview article. View the video of the launch, above, and using the wonders of NASA TV on the web and my image clipping tool here are more pictures from the launch:

Here are a few pre-launch images:

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Credit: NASA TV
Credit: NASA TV


Shortly after liftoff with the launch complex visible below:
Credit: NASA TV
Credit: NASA TV


View from the spacecraft heading up through the clouds.

Credit: NASA TV
Credit: NASA TV


The curvature of Earth and the blackness of space visible from this image taken by cameras on the spacecraft.
Credit: NASA TV
Credit: NASA TV

As of this writing, all systems are in good shape.