India loses communication with lunar satellite (Update)

Aug 30, 2009
FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2008 file photo, The Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft, India's first unmanned mission to the Moon, is seen as it is unveiled at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Satellite Center in Bangalore, India. Scientists at India's national space agency said Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009, that all communication links with the country's only satellite orbiting the moon have snapped and they were unable to send commands to the spacecraft. Radio contact with Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was abruptly lost early Saturday, said a statement issued by the Indian Space Research Organization. (AP Photo/File)

(AP) -- India's national space agency said communications with the country's only satellite orbiting the moon snapped Saturday and that its scientists were no longer controlling the spacecraft.

Radio contacts with Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft were abruptly lost at 0130 Saturday (2000 GMT Friday), the Indian Space Research Organization said.

The agency's monitoring unit near the southern city of Bangalore is no longer receiving data from the spacecraft, spokesman S. Satish told The Associated Press by telephone from Bangalore.

The spacecraft had completed 312 days in orbit and orbited the more than 3,400 times.

"We are studying the telemetry data and trying to figure out what is the problem," Satish said. The space agency had received a large volume of data from the spacecraft - which is slotted in an automatic orbit of the moon - and most of the scientific objectives of the mission had been met, he said.

The spacecraft had been controlled from a monitoring center at Byalalu, 18 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Bangalore, sending it commands to change direction, speed and to focus the cameras. Satish said it was no longer receiving commands.

The launch of Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008 put India in an elite club of countries with moon missions. Other countries with similar satellites are the United States, Russia, the , Japan and China.

The US$80 million lunar spacecraft has had problems earlier too. In May, the satellite lost a critical instrument called the star sensor. Two months later, it overheated but scientists were able to salvage the craft and resume normal operations.

The had completed around 95 per cent of the two-year mission's objectives, Satish said Saturday.

Scientists say the Chandrayaan project will boost India's capacity to build more efficient rockets and satellites, especially through miniaturization, and open research avenues for young Indian scientists.

plans to follow the Chandrayaan, which means "moon craft" in Sanskrit, by landing a rover on the moon in 2011.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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User comments : 18

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seanpu
2 / 5 (4) Aug 29, 2009
not surprised. moon orbits are known to be VERY difficult as the moon's gravity is all over the place!
Husky
5 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2009
wow, that's the most insightfull comment on gravity ever since Newton got an apple on his head
zevkirsh
1 / 5 (5) Aug 29, 2009
seriously? they lost contact after 10 months? why? wtf is going on here?

did we use a particle beam or laser to shoot it down. if not us, the chinese? the russians? how often does a successful mission suddenly get caught short for no known reason
finitesolutions
4 / 5 (5) Aug 29, 2009
The moon craft was running on Windows OS. Restart did not work.
dachpyarvile
5 / 5 (6) Aug 29, 2009
In the early days of US spacecraft experimentation, many prototypes were lost until we started getting it right. Even now we still have lost a few. Remember the Mars "skateboard" mission? This is India's first time. Please be gentle. :-)
gopher65
5 / 5 (5) Aug 29, 2009
It happens. It happens in consumer electronics, it happens with hardened military electronics, and it even occasionally happens in well tested spacecraft electronics, though not as often. No need to blame something like this on military action. Electronics sometimes just fail.
EarthlingX
5 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2009
This is just sad. I hope they will at least manage to get some data out of it to help them be better prepared next time.
dachpyarvile
5 / 5 (2) Aug 30, 2009
The Indian people are resourceful. I am sure they will make things better the next time.
docknowledge
2.2 / 5 (5) Aug 30, 2009
"The spacecraft had completed around 95 per cent of the two-year mission's objectives, Satish said Saturday."

Uh, can you say "bullshit"? How could "most of the objectives" of a two year mission be completed in less than a year? What were they going to do the other year? Play cards?
dachpyarvile
3 / 5 (2) Aug 30, 2009
"The spacecraft had completed around 95 per cent of the two-year mission's objectives, Satish said Saturday."

Uh, can you say "bullshit"? How could "most of the objectives" of a two year mission be completed in less than a year? What were they going to do the other year? Play cards?


I would not say so. It is just that most of the objectives were completed. It would have taken a longer time to finish the remaining 5%. That's all that Satish implied in what he was saying.
spacester
4 / 5 (6) Aug 30, 2009
What's up, doc?

Yeah I can say that word, but I like to think that PhysOrg comments can maintain more decorum than that.

You can put the word 'knowledge' in your username but apparently you do not hold yourself to any standard of knowing what you're talking about.

It is very common for a mission plan to achieve the mission objectives about halfway thru the mission's nominal lifetime. ESPECIALLY if you are stretching the capabilities of your country's program.

How many times have you heard JPL mission managers state that a particular mission greatly exceeded its objectives? Did you use your eight-letter word then?

Are you able to understand the difference between "objectives" and "potential"?

How stupid would it be for a mission to be designed to achieve its objectives if and only if it realizes its maximum potential?

You can go back to playing cards now.
docknowledge
1 / 5 (2) Aug 31, 2009
It's very kind of you both of see the bright side, but Satish is lying, guys. It didn't achieve 95% of its *anticipated* science 10 months into its 24 month mission.

The JPL missions greatly exceed their potential (which this satellite didn't) because JPL and NASA vastly overdesign satellites, figuring, hey, if it gets there, and it works, someone will probably continue funding it. They don't want the bad publicity of making a spacecraft that *should* last for years drop dead in a few months. It's like the lines at Disneyland that they announce are 1/2 hour long, when they know damn good-and-well they are only 15 minutes. White lies, usually.

This Indian statement was just a lie to cover their screw up.
dachpyarvile
5 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2009
Both NASA and JPL have had their mission failures, too. It is not just an Indian thing. Give Satish a break.

He would be aware of the complete mission objectives far more than you. It is their first lunar mission. I think they did quite well for their very first unmanned mission to the Moon.

By the way, how is it their screw-up when the satellite stopped transmitting data? Sometimes communications arrays go offline as does the communications equipment onboard a satellite.

I need only mention current situation with the Mars Orbiter. It keeps having problems. And, the West is years ahead of India technologically.
RayCherry
5 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2009
If we consider it from the view of the project sponsors and managers, somewhere between fifty and eighty percent of the objectives would have been getting the craft built and delivered on time, launched and arriving at the desired destination, and then achieving an orbit around another 'world'.

Seeing as the Indians have successfully placed many objects into Earth orbit, this mission's key objectives would have been based on these vital 'next steps'.

As for the science team's objectives, I am fairly sure that DocKnowledge's remarks are valid and that they would like to have received all of the planned output from the lunar satelite. However, what they have received will keep them busy for decades as it is.

A very successful first lunar mission - congratulations ISRO.
spacester
not rated yet Aug 31, 2009
Those foolish Indians! Intentionally building a craft they know is doomed to failure! They should be prosecuted for incompetence, if not some sort of crime against humanity! :rolleyes:

Exceeding the potential . . . say what? The potential of a mission cannot be exceeded, it can only be discovered. It is an unknown, to be maximized, and given that, mission planners decide on a set of objectives to be met.

Objectives can be exceeded, but potential cannot. I agree that in this case, the potential was not met.

Kindness or Fairness? Until somebody does the research and finds out what the mission objectives were, we don't know. (It's not like any modern-day reporter is going to make that effort, we're on our own.)

I suppose you look to your favorite athletes to always give it 150%! Inspirational perhaps, but mathematically absurd.
docknowledge
1 / 5 (2) Aug 31, 2009
Satish did something NASA and JPL never, never, never do about their accomplishments and failures: the son-of-a-bitch is a scientist, and he lied.

Anyhow, it's one guy lying, hopefully a storm in a teacup. However, I just found this article on the BBC news

"So was India's inaugural Moon mission a success or a failure?

Neither. By all accounts, it has been a mixed performance."

http://news.bbc.c...0230.stm
docknowledge
1 / 5 (2) Aug 31, 2009
Both NASA and JPL have had their mission failures, too. It is not just an Indian thing. Give Satish a break.

He would be aware of the complete mission objectives far more than you. It is their first lunar mission. I think they did quite well for their very first unmanned mission to the Moon.

By the way, how is it their screw-up when the satellite stopped transmitting data? Sometimes communications arrays go offline as does the communications equipment onboard a satellite.

I need only mention current situation with the Mars Orbiter. It keeps having problems. And, the West is years ahead of India technologically.


It's not the failure, as such, but the lie. The man lied publicly. Misrepresented a scientific achievement.

But as an aside...in some ways the US is probably not that far ahead of India. Yer talking about the situation 20 years ago. They just *made* their first nuclear submarine. They are making their own interplanetary mission equipment. They have multi-billion dollar software companies that compete directly with ones in the US.

The lies are not innocent: they promote India's competitive position.
dachpyarvile
not rated yet Aug 31, 2009
From the article cited above:

Upbeat Isro scientists are saying "Chandrayaan-1 is dead, long live Chandrayaan". The jury will be out - until the scientific papers come in.


The jury still is out. Doc cannot wait, it would seem, and wants a conviction now.

But, as also pointed out by the scientific writer of the abovecited article, it was not only India's first mission, it exceeded even the performance of America's first missions to the Moon! America's first attempts were failures every one. The objectives are not all known to the public, but two of its main objectives are known and both of these were successful and were completed early in the mission. One was to look for water and the other was to send back photos of deep craters never before observed. Both of these were completed before the communications failure.

Doc, the jury still is out. One generally cannot convict without a verdict from the jury--at least in American courts.

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