November 28, 2008

India’s Lunar Craft Overheating

India's first unmanned lunar craft, Chandrayaan 1, is suffering from an internal temperature rise that has Indian scientists searching for ways to cool down the spacecraft.

The mission is considered a major step for India to be able to keep pace with other space-faring nations in Asia.

The spacecraft sent a probe to the surface of the moon earlier in the month.

"Now the moon, our satellite and the sun are in same line this means our craft is receiving 1,200 watts of heat from the moon and 1,300 watts from the sun per meter square," said Mr. Annadurai, project director for the mission.

Scientists believe the instruments on board the craft will soon begin to fail if urgent measures are not taken.

"We have rotated the spacecraft by 20 degrees and this has helped to reduce the temperature of the craft. We have also switched off certain equipment like mission computers and this has resulted in the reduction of temperature to 40C now. At this temperature all the equipment can perform very well," said Annadurai.

Annadurai insisted that all instruments on board the craft are currently working properly.

The current plan to turn off certain equipment will have an impact on the lunar research, but lowers the risk of ruining the equipment for good.

Scientists are also weighing the possibility of raising the orbit of the craft to cool it down.  According to Annadurai, this is an option of last resort. 

The next month will be critical for the mission which is scheduled to last for two years.

The mission launched on October 22 and aims to map the lunar surface in search of water and helium.

The temperature problems have been the first difficulties experienced on the mission. 


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