September 2, 2009

ISRO Takes Pride In Doomed Chandrayaan

India's first unmanned lunar mission was abandoned after the nation's space agency lost contact with the craft on Saturday.

Officials with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced that the agency lost contact with its first moon-orbiting spacecraft earlier this week. The agency cited computer problems with the loss of communication.

The $100 million unmanned Chandrayaan-1 craft was launched October 22, 2008. The ISRO said it had initially planned for the mission to last 24 months.

According to the Associated Press, ISRO officials said they are still investigating the cause of the mission's failure.

However, the mission is not being viewed as a complete loss. It marked the first ever satellite to be designed and built by the ISRO, placing it among the ranks of the US, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China.

The AP quoted agency spokesman S. Satish who said the ISRO is planning to hold talks with the US and Russian space agencies in order to track the $80 million spacecraft in the name of "academic interest."

Satish said that the lunar mission had completed about 95 percent of its objectives.

"We have found that all the instruments on the spacecraft worked satisfactorily and the entire scientific instruments have performed. That is how we could collect a large volume of data," said ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair.

"We survived for 315 days, which is a good record. Many such experiments have burnt within a month in the past."

The ISRO announced on Wednesday that the Chandrayaan-1 craft had returned images of the landing site of NASA's Apollo 15 spacecraft. The images are said to be the smoking gun that will debunk prior conspiracy theories that the mission was a hoax.

"The images captured by a hyper-spectral camera fitted as a part of Chandrayaan-I... has reconfirmed the veracity of the Apollo 15 mission," Prakash Chauhan, of ISRO, told AFP.

Chauhan said the craft located the landing site by looking for disturbances on the moon's surface.

"The disturbed surface is bright," he said.

"Our images also show tracks left behind by the lunar rovers which were used by the astronauts."


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