Indian Lunar Orbiter Fails Abruptly

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BANGALORE, India — India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter mission launched last October ended 14 months prematurely Aug. 29, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a press release. ISRO said scientists abruptly lost radio contact with the nation’s first planetary probe, which was designed to operate for two years in orbit around the Moon.

ISRO spokesman S. Satish told Space News Aug. 29 that attempts to re-establish contact had failed and that the mission was as good as lost.

The spacecraft, carrying a payload of 11 scientific instruments — six supplied by U.S. and European partners — was orbiting at an altitude of 200 kilometers and could crash any time on the lunar surface, he said. The end comes four months after the onboard star sensor for determining Chandrayaan-1’s orientation began malfunctioning April 26, forcing controllers to activate a backup system to keep the spacecraft’s antenna pointed to the ground station near Bangalore.

The ISRO release said the spacecraft had made more than 3,400 orbits around the Moon, sent nearly 70,000 images, and that most of the scientific objectives of the mission had been met. ISRO is collaborating with Russia on a follow-on Moon mission, which will include a lander and rover and is slated for launch in 2012.