India’s moon mission operation suspended

Bangalore, Aug 29 ( India suspended its first moon mission operation after the lunarcraft Chandrayaan-1 lost radio contact with the earth in the wee hours of Saturday, a top official of the Indian space agency said.

“At the moment, we have suspended the operation. Calling off the mission depends on what elements we get back. Whether there is any possibility of restoring contact with the spacecraft. These things are being investigated,” the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman G. Madhavan Nair told news channels at his residence in this tech hub.

Space scientists are analysing the data last received at 00:25 IST to pinpoint what had gone wrong with the antenna on board the spacecraft that led to snapping the communication link with the space agency’s Deep Space Network (DSN) at Byalalu, about 40 km from here.

“Right now, our scientists are trying to analyse the data to pinpoint what has gone wrong. Maybe, within the next 24 hours, we will have some results. If we do not establish contact with the spacecraft again, we have a serious problem,” Nair said.

Explaining how the DSN lost radio contact at 00:30 IST, Nair said when commands were sent to the spacecraft, the response was not good, indicating that it was in a difficult situation.

“Data from the previous orbit showed that when the spacecraft passed over our region, it was quite healthy and all the instruments were functioning normally. We have not looked at the detail of the individual sub-systems. That exercise we are doing now,” Nair pointed out.

When the DSN did not have radio contact after an hour’s gap, the spacecraft was over the US ground station, which reported that only the carrier was present. It was not a very healthy sign.

Admitting that the development was a disappointment, Nair said the space scientists were hoping to increase the length of the mission.

“I would have been happier if it would have survived for some more time. Then we would have had an opportunity to revisit some of the spots where we have collected excellent images,” Nair pointed out.

Recalling the sophisticated joint experiment Chandrayaan conducted with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of the US-based NASA Aug 21 to trace the presence of ice in a dark crater near the north pole of the moon, Nair said it was a tremendous success at the fag end of its life.