ISRO in touch with NASA to keep track of spacecraft: Nair

The next six months would be utilised in revisiting the data collated. Over 70,000 images had been picked up by Chandrayaan-1. The mission, which put India in the select group of six nations, had five Indian and six international instruments on board. Asked if Chandarayaan’s abrupt burnout would impose contractual obligations on ISRO, Nair said the international co-operating agencies were extremely happy and had already got more than they wanted.

Chandrayaan-1 has no scientific value now, but ISRO is in touch with NASA to keep track of the orbiting spacecraft. Nair, who is in Goa to attend the Eighth IAA International Conference on Low Coast Planetary Missions, said Chandrayaan-1 was a good example of how India was leading from the front in low-budget space exploration missions. The mission had cost less than $ 100 million. Advanced nations had spent $ 500 million on similar missions.

Without any orbital correction and with the present fuel load, Chandrayaan-1 is expected to last another 1,000 days in the lunar orbit before crashing on the moon’s surface.
Sources at Deep Space Network in Byalalu said troubles were detected when the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) did not pick up a signal. “Our last signal at Byalalu was at 00.25 hours on Saturday. We had to wait for the moonrise time to receive the signals once again. But when APL did not pick up any signals at 1.30 am, we knew there was a serious problem,” Satish said.

Although data analysis is under way, it is likely to be sketchy as in the words of the official “once it fails, there is no data to analyse”, pointing to the fact that the there was no data available for the crucial time between 00.25 hours and 1.30 am for any exhaustive analysis.

However, there is likely to be what is called a “trend analysis”, that will test the available data against several parameters to check for any trends that would point to the reason for failure of the power systems. The ISRO is likely to form a high level committee to look into the data.

The abruptness of the loss of radio contact has surprised many, as there were no apparent indications that the spacecraft was under any stress. The official commented that the problems faced by Chandrayaan-1 such as failure of star sensor and the Bus Management Unit were accounted for in the planning stages, and hence had redundancy.

Something like the loss of radio contact, however, was a life-threatening problem and the chances of pulling back were non-existent. Curiously enough, Project Director of Chandrayaan M Annadorai has been asked to refrain from speaking to the media.

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