The saga of India’s ill-fated Moon probe, Chandrayaan-1 continues. We learned in July this year that it took the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) three months to admit some serious instrument failures, and then at the end of August the mission was declared over, when communication with the satellite was lost ten months into a two year mission.
Now, according to the Times of India, the problems with Chandrayaan-1, which was meant to produce a topological and mineralogical map of the Moon, began way before launch. T K Alex, director, ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore, told the TOI “We assumed that the temperature at 100km above the Moon’s surface would be around 75 degrees Celsius. However, it was more than 75 degrees and problems started to surface. We had to raise the orbit to 200km."
So, when in May this year Chandrayaan’s orbit of the Moon was raised from 100 kilometres to 200 kilometres it wasn’t as was explained at the time, to get a better view of the Moon. It was actually to try and cool things down. The temperature problems that arose from not knowing the temperature of the Moon started to cause problems as long ago as November last year, a month after launch.
Chandrayaan-1 must be now seen as a learning experience for ISRO. But a costly experience of $80 million.
Another ISRO official is quoted by the Press Trust of India saying the mission ended because of a bus management problem – a piece of hardware that performs “vital control functions”. This, the official claims could have led to the severing of the radio link between the satellite and Earth.
There is apparently a meeting taking place with scientists involved in the mission to review the performance of the mission (Hindustan Times) and ISRO director S Satish is quoted as being happy with the data that has been collected.
The legacy of this mission is unclear – a second Chandrayaan craft is planned to launch in 2013 and will include a rover to sample lunar rocks and send the data back to an orbiting spacecraft. But surely the failure will have damaged ISRO’s reputation in the eyes of the international space science community. Or not? What do you think?