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Indian Moon Mission "Terminated"
31 August 2009 1:20 pm
NEW DELHI—India’s maiden moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, has come to a shuddering and unexpected halt. On 29 August, the Indian Space Research Organization lost all contact with the spacecraft after a catastrophic failure of its electronics, said ISRO Chair G. Madhavan Nair.
In announcing the mission’s “termination” at a press conference yesterday, Nair declared Chandrayaan-1 “a complete success” on the grounds that the spacecraft had gathered some 70,000 images and met “more than 95%” of its scientific objectives.
The loss of the $100 million spacecraft is not the first glitch ISRO encountered. Early in the mission, according to the space agency, the spacecraft’s power system failed; engineers quickly overcame the problem. In January, the probe started overheating, then in May, the spacecraft lost its fine guidance system when its star sensor failed.
While Nair was eulogizing a successful mission, some scientists were still in mourning. “The anguish I feel as a scientist over remaining unfulfilled science goals I'm sure pales to the pain felt by the team of engineers who gave birth to this remarkable spacecraft,” says Carle Pieters, a lunar scientist at Brown University and principle investigator of NASA's and Chandrayaan 1’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper.