Serious snag

It does seem that India’s first lunar mission might have to be cut short. Chandrayaan-I, which is currently orbiting the moon, is said to have been “handicapped” by the overheating of its star sensor. The star sensor is used for determining the orientation of the spacecraft on the basis of its distance from stars. A spacecraft must be kept at the right orientation to ensure that its cameras and other recording equipment remain focused on the lunar surface. The failure of the star sensor would affect the spacecraft’s data collection. With Chandrayaan-I’s successful launch nine months ago, India joined an elite club of nations that have inserted a vehicle into the lunar orbit. What made India’s achievement a matter of significant pride was the fact that it had been completed at a fraction of the cost that other countries have incurred on similar missions. The successful launch added luster to India’s already formidable reputation in the field of space technology.

ISRO officials have said that the snag has been fixed and that the “health of the spacecraft is now normal.” Besides, scares and setbacks are routine in space missions. They have also claimed that Chandrayaan-I has completed most of its work, having reportedly achieved 90 per cent of its objectives. ISRO officials have in fact said that they might consider ending Chandrayaan-I’s two-year mission a year ahead of schedule.
If the claims that Chandrayaan-I’s objectives have been achieved are indeed true, then aborting the mission half-way through its planned schedule will not be a financial loss.

What is worrying however is that the claims of having achieved most of the objectives might just be a spin. If this is so, the mission has not been fully successful. While this is disappointing, it does not make the mission a failure. Chandrayaan-I has provided India with valuable data about the moon’s surface already. Moreover, work on Chandrayaan-I is an important step towards India realising its ambitions of landing a spacecraft and then a man on the moon. Every lesson it learns from Chandrayaan-I will be a valuable contribution towards making future space missions successful. It is imperative therefore for ISRO scientists to be objective and upfront in their assessment of Chandrayaan-I’s achievements and difficulties. How it deals with these troubles will determine its future successes in this direction.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry