Chances of restoring contact with Chandrayaan slim: ISRO

Bangalore, Aug 30 ( Indian scientists are still trying to restore radio contact with the lunarcraft Chandrayaan-1, but the chances of re-establishing contact are slim, a senior space official said Sunday.

“Efforts are still on to restore the signal with the mooncraft though chances are slim. If we fail to establish the link again, we may call off the mission much earlier than the two-year schedule,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) director S. Satish told Inditop.

A team of scientists and technicians have been working since early Saturday to re-establish radio contact with the 514-kg lunarcraft from the space agency’s telemetry, tracking and command network (Istrac) at Peenya on the outskirts of the city.

“We are trying to alter the position of the antenna onboard the spacecraft so as to activate the signals for sending and receiving commands. No success so far. We are keeping our fingers crossed, as we have no information on what’s happening there,” Satish admitted.

At the same time, another team of scientists and communication experts are analysing the data last received from the spacecraft at 12.25 a.m. Saturday at the Deep Space Network (DSN) near Byalalu, about 40 km from this tech hub, to pinpoint what went wrong for the communication link to snap.

DSN first lost radio contact with Chandrayaan at 1.30 a.m. Saturday when it was over north America.

“The condition of the spacecraft is like that of a patient in an intensive care unit (ICU). We can’t say it’s dead and gone when efforts are still on to revive it. There are instances of the US space agency abandoning its Mars mission for weeks before establishing contact again,” Satish asserted.

ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair told reporters here late Saturday that the moon mission operations were suspended in the absence of the radio link with the lunarcraft.

“The mission functions have been suspended as there is no contact with the spacecraft. Calling off the mission depends on what elements we get back. Investigations are on, Nair said.

The $80-million (Rs.380-crore) Chandrayaan was launched amid much fanfare Oct 22, 2008 from ISRO’s spaceport Sriharikota, about 90 km from 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 crash-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.

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 (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.